A “pressing” need

I don’t quite remember which year I started reloading, somewhere between 2006-2008 probably. I bought a kit from someone at my club in Glasgow, it was made by Lee, and it was a great way to start what has become a big part of my shooting life. 

Since then I have replaced nearly every part of the original kit, including the powder thrower (I now have one by RCBS), and the balance scale (Redding). And each of these purchases has inspired the same internal conversation: 

Me: I think I need a new *reloading gadget*!

Also me: why? You have one and it’s not broken.

Me: yeah, but it’s kind of frustrating to use, and I think this other *reloading gadget* will work better.

Also me: I think it’s a waste of money.

Me: possibly, but I’m a grown ass adult and I can waste money on my hobbies if I want to.

Also me: fine, but what about your pension…

Me: …sod off.

These conversations are useful for restraining my wilder impulses, and that’s no bad thing, but it also makes me slow to upgrade when I actually need to, as I recently became aware.

I have discovered an issue with my press (at least I believe the problem lies there), which is the one part of my kit I never got round to replacing. It is a Lee challenger press (I think), which is an ‘O’ frame single stage press, but compared to many of that type it is pretty diminutive. And while it has worked very well for me up till now, an issue has started to crop up.

The issue actually first appeared (or I first noticed it) when I was resizing a bunch of .223 rem brass. I had installed the die as the instructions suggest-screw it down till it touches the shell holder, then a quarter turn more-but after I had been working for a while I noticed a gap between the die and the shell holder when the ram was at the top, mid resize. When I tried raising the ram without a case the gap vanished and everything appeared as it was when I started. I checked the die, and it had not loosened. In this instance I resolved the issue by screwing the die down a bit further, but despite the simple fix the issue concerned me.

The problem returned the other day when I was resizing some .30-06 brass into .35 Whelen. I had noticed some protruding primers on some of the first .35 Whelen loads I fired, and after confirming that the rifle’s chamber did not have excessive headspace, determined that the case shoulder was getting pushed too far back by the die. In order to correct this I tried using a feeler gauge to position the die with a specific gap to the shell holder, intending to resize a case, test it in the rifle, and adjust the die again until I was pushing the shoulder back just enough to chamber. This would also leave me with a known gap I could accurately reproduce in future.

Unfortunately, when I raised the ram with a case installed, the gap miraculously expanded…and I was frustrated. After adjusting the die down, and down, and down again-testing the cases in the rifle each time until they fit the chamber just right-there was almost no measurable gap at all, and my hopes of a reproducible set up had faded to almost nothing.

My theory is that something in the press is flexing, or compressing (or something), but only when under the pressure of resizing.

This does not make me happy.

There are enough variables in the process of reloading as it is, I don’t need an extra mystery variable showing up at random, especially one that can’t be accurately measured or predicted.

For a good while now I have been receiving catalogues in the mail that include reloading equipment. Among the goodies on offer are reloading presses, but since I knew I didn’t need anything more than a single stage press, and also since I assumed that one “O” frame press is as good as another, the debate with “also me” always went in favour of my pension. Now that I have decided that my assumption was wrong, the final debate ended very differently.

Which brings us to this:

This is an RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme, which I picked up at cabelas last night. I had originally intended to get it on Sunday, but I was so convinced by my own logic (okay, just excited) that I decided not to wait.

It is in an entirely different class to the Lee it is replacing, it is beefier, smoother, and there is less play in the parts. As well as resolving the afore mentioned issue, I am hoping this will help me achieve a touch more consistency in my reloads.

Having decided to get a new press, I had briefly looked into the possibilities of turret presses, and progressives, but none of them really suit what I’m doing. 

I have been casting curious glances at the Rock Chucker for a while, but since until now I didn’t need a new press, I avoided thinking about it too seriously. However, as soon as I decided to bite the bullet and get a new press, the “Chucker” quickly leaped to the top of my list. 

Various things contributed to my decision: it was already discounted, RCBS are running a rebate scheme that I hope will give me at least $20 back, and for a bonus Cabelas (whose price was the same as on Amazon, impressive!) were offering $25 off my first purchase if I opened an account, so I did (I didn’t know that till I got there, which is why it was a bonus). With all the discounts applied I think the press will have cost me under $100, which makes my elaborate justification even less worthy of close scrutiny.

So all in all I think my conscience is clear, my pension is fine, and my reloading bench looks the business. 

Now if I can just find the time to use it…

It’s the modern way

I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned it yet, but I bought another rifle recently. 

It all started some time ago when I read an article about an old and slowly fading cartridge, and it stuck in my mind. It’s called .35 Remington, and while it is fairly old, so are many more popular cartridges. The .30-06 is 110 years old, so age alone doesn’t really matter. 

However, while it is a rimless case, it’s not exactly a speed demon. If it manages to push a 200gr bullet at 2000fps it’s doing well. But I suddenly have a thing for .35 calibre cartridges, so when I spotted a Marlin 336 lever action in .35 Remington on sale for a pretty decent price, it only took my willpower a couple of weeks to wear down.

This is what it looks like:

Since I’m usually all about accuracy, buying a lever action was something of a departure from the norm. However, early testing with factory ammo seems to suggest better accuracy potential than I expected. There is a new bullet that has been developed by Hornady. It is a spitzer style, but to prevent mishaps in the tubular magazine of lever actions, the tip is made of a slightly maliable material that deforms rather than ignite the next round under recoil. The pointed bullet helps get the most out of older cartridges like .35 Remington, and so I have bought a box, along with some new Hornady brass to load them in. I have fitted a cheap scope to the rifle, and zeroed the open sights it came with: because if the sights are there, they might as well work. 

The rifle is light and fast handling, and within about 200yds it should work fine on deer. If I get some load testing completed before November I plan to use the rifle for this year’s deer season. The place I have been hunting rarely offers a shot over 100 yards, so this rifle will be just fine. Also I will feel like I am getting more into the American hunting spirit. All I need now is a red checked wool shirt and the right accent, and I will blend right in.
The only thing about this rifle (other than the not insignificant recoil), is the difficulty involved in cleaning the barrel. To do this I have to undo a screw and remove the lever, then pull out the bolt body and ejector to clear the path down the barrel. Once this is achieved you’d think cleaning would be straight forward, but the size of the gun, combined with the awkwardness of attaching a bipod, makes pushing a cleaning rod back and forth a frustrating experience. 

Thus, in true modern style I decided to build a labor saving device. And here it is: 

This is my bench clamp. I built it from some random pieces of plywood, some scraps of leather, and a cheap hand screw clamp I bought on amazon. It worked out better than I expected, and makes cleaning all of my firearms a whole lot easier. 

And that’s the way it should be: boring parts easy, fun parts fun, for ever and ever, amen.

Till next time…

Getting closer to invisible (for turkeys anyway)

With turkey hunting in mind, I’ve had a box of camouflage vinyl transfers sitting on my reloading desk for several weeks: they were starting to look at me accusingly. And although they were doing a very effective job of disguising the inside of the box from lost (and presumably very small) turkeys, I finally procrastinated from the paying work long enough to apply them to my shotgun.

The weatherby PA-08 that has been collecting dust in my cabinet for several years, came to me with shiny blued metal and shiny polished wood. All together it is a very attractive gun, in a traditional sense. However although dark metal and wood are not inherently bad from a camouflage point of view, the prevalence of “shiny” is. In its natural state it looks like this:

pa-08_upland

To learn more about this gun go here

Dragging a gun around the woods, and through the undergrowth, can have deleterious effects on pretty guns, and since I wanted to have both a less shiny gun, and also a better protected one, vinyl transfers fit the bill nicely.

I picked up a set made by Mossy Oak (product page here), and after watching the informative video they provide, I felt confident enough to have a go at it myself.

The process was straight forward, if a little finicky, but the final outcome was well worth the effort and almost looks professional… if you don’t look too closely.

There are a few spots on bulges where I had trouble removing all the creases, and I managed to scratch the blueing in a few places while trimming off the excess material. Given a second go it would probably turn out much better (such is life), but the imperfections are small and will have no effect on the ultimate purpose of the product.

Here is the gun in its new clothes:

Vinyl covered Weatherby PA-08

Vinyl covered Weatherby PA-08.

I’m pretty proud of my efforts, and can now get down to the business of patterning it ready for the distant season.

Lots to do, so much time to do it.