Ooops: A reloading story.

In anticipation of going target shooting this weekend I sat down the last couple of evenings to get some ammunition made. I have been reloading for a few years now and it usually goes well, I enjoy the satisfaction of shooting my own ammunition and it has always performed excellently.

These are the first match rounds I have reloaded since I came to the USA and my recipe has altered slightly. In Scotland I used Lapua Scenar bullet heads, however they cost a bit more here than some of the alternatives. After taking some advice I bought some Hornady A-Max, but it turns out that they are not allowed on the 300 meter range at the Minneapolis Rifle Club due to their thin jacket. The electronic targets used on that range have an enclosed acoustic chamber and the A-Max are known to disintegrate after passing through the face of the target causing unnecessary damage to the rear wall and the operation of the scoring system.

Therefore I recently purchased some Sierra Match Kings which I was assured would pose no threat to the technology. This however is not where the problem occurred.

On Tuesday evening I sat down to prep 200 of my brand new .308 Win Lapua Match cases. I used these in Scotland and was very happy with their consistency and performance, and unlike the Scenars there is no premium for using Lapua cases in the US.

I got set up and started running the cases through my Lee full length sizer die (I tried neck sizing my cases once, which resulted in me having to buy ammunition at the range in the middle of a detail, and later dismantle all the neck sized cases I had left because they wouldn’t chamber in my rifle). In the beginning I noticed some light scoring on the necks of the cases but it didn’t seem significant, so I continued.

Anyone who does it will know that reloading can get a little repetitious, especially when you work with a single stage press, it is easy to tune out and just go through the motions. I would also like to add in my defence that I am currently studying for a Masters degree and have been a busy boy recently, working long hours at school and not always getting as much sleep as I need. The result of these excuses is that it wasn’t until I had sized around 90 cases that I paid attention and had a close look at the case I had just removed from the shell holder. The light scoring had changed to heavy scoring.

Lapua .308W neck scoring. 5th Feb 13

Lapua .308W neck scoring. 5th Feb 13

I wasn’t very happy about this.

I tried my best to clean out the die, but nothing changed. In the end I sized the last few rounds of the first 100 but decided not to do any more. As far as I can tell my die is damaged, but I have no idea how this has happened. I reloaded 50 rounds in November to zero my hunting rifle but they had no marks on them like this.

If anyone reading this has an explanation I would be happy to hear it.

Yesterday I ordered a new set of RCBS dies that I hope will arrive early next week. I am planning to shoot again next weekend and I will need more ammunition. It may be that my Lee die has a build up of copper fouling which could be removed, but new dies wont hurt and they are probably better than my current dies which are pretty basic.

I am down the cost of a new set of dies, and the life of these cases is probably reduced, but I have been reminded of an important rule when reloading.



Update on 11th Feb 2013

Unfortunately due to a winter storm the 300 meter match was cancelled yesterday, I include a snippet of the email I received:

Match cancelled - suggest eat comfort food

Match cancelled – suggest eat comfort food

A sensible decision, I didn’t want to get stuck in the snow in the middle of nowhere, but I was very keen to shoot. There is another shoot next weekend that I hope to attend if I am able. I will let you know.

On the subject of my scratched cases, my friends Niall and Charles had a chat about it but were unable to come up with an explanation. Their advice is to make sure I clean everything before use and get a new die. Which I have ordered and will hopefully receive today.

Fingers crossed for a snow free week.


I Passed “Hunter Safety”

Happy Hunter

Today I attended the final element of the hunter safety certification process. It was faintly ridiculous but who cares because I passed.

Irresponsible celebratory gunshot

Irresponsible celebratory gunshot

Having previously passed an on-line exam it was necessary for me to book a “field day” to complete the process. I chose today from a list of dates on the Minnesota DNR website, and called the volunteer instructor who was listed. Jason Raaen, the lead instructor of “Personal Firearm Safety Training” , directed me to the function room of a restaurant called Cowboy Jacks, where today, along with forty odd other people I took an exam.

The exam consisted of 50 multiple choice questions (many of which I had already answered in the on-line portion of the process) and we were advised to answer the questions as if we were a 14 year old child, since that is who this exam is intended for. Therefore when asked “What is necessary in order to show your gun to your friends?”, I answered “The presence of a responsible adult”. Needless to say I passed that exam. The instructor pointed out that although we all had a certificate saying we passed the on-line exam, he had no way of knowing who had actually taken it.

After filling out some forms we were directed to a range. Here we lined up in the cold (zero Fahrenheit) to take the shooting test. When I got to the head of the line I was handed a loaded 10/22 rifle and told to fire ten shots, engaging and disengaging the safety catch in between each shot. I did this, there was no target to speak of, he wasn’t watching anyway. When the rifle went ‘click’ I engaged the safety catch and handed back the rifle. The instructor said “you’re done, get your form signed at the table”, which I did, then I left.

While I am inclined to make fun I would like to say that I approve of the intention behind the course, and saw no examples of unsafe or irresponsible behaviour. All the other “students” appeared to be sensible people and the instructor, while slightly eccentric to my eyes, was never anything but professional at all times. Perhaps it is that the intended age group for this process is early teens that makes it seem ridiculous to someone a bit older.

During the on-line training I learned a valuable piece of advice for a deer hunter. Apparently, strapping a dead deer to the front of your truck and driving around is not an effective way of cooling it down.

Don't do this!

Don’t do this!


Next weekend I am hoping to do my first bit of target shooting since I arrived in the USA. With a bit of luck I will be travelling north to the Minneapolis Rifle Club to shoot at 300 meters with my Swing rifle. I have to load some ammunition before then and try my jacket on for the first time in ten months, and I probably won’t do very well, but I am very keen to get back to my core shooting interest. I will let you know how it goes.