45acp side view

Cartridge of the Week, the .45 ACP, .45 Auto

This week we look into the American classic cartridge, the .45 Automatic Colt Pistol. John Moses Browning, who some may consider the finest gun designer of all time, conceived the cartridge in 1905. It entered service as part of the most iconic pistol of the 20th and 21st centuries, the Colt 1911 and 1911A1. It is hard not to tell the story of this cartridge without some brief notes about the 1911 platform, as they are synonymous.

Kel-Tec PMR 30

Lovin’ the PMR-30

The call came late on a Saturday afternoon. I’d asked an FFL friend to be on the lookout for a Kel-Tec PMR-30 at a reasonable price, and after three months of no-news-is-bad-news, this was it: “I’ve found two PMRs at a local shop,” he said. “If you can call them with a credit card in the next five minutes, you can have one for $600.”

“Champions In Their Class” is the name of this Western dealer promotional point-of-sale poster inked by an unknown artist.

How About a Little Ink with your Brass?

As an inveterate cartridge hound, I’m always drawn to books that promise insight into rounds I might not have heard of. That’s why I picked up the Shooter’s Bible Guide to Cartridges, a 224-page four-color feast of bullets, brass, primers, and — surprisingly — art.

Exterior Ballistics

Exterior Ballistics

I am often amused as I read some of the trifling on the Internet of the person who wants to buy their first rifle for the purpose of shooting 1,000 yards. This arbitrary distance seems to have become the standard for being an expert shooter. The homemade sniper for some sort of future zombie attacks.

30-30 Winchester

Cartridge of the Week 30-30 Winchester

Last week we explored an old Warhorse, the Russian 7.62x54R. This week we look into a staple cartridge of hunters for many years, the 30-30 Winchester. Just slightly older than last week’s cartridge by just four years (1895) it is still in use today and may have harvested more deer than any other smokeless cartridge. Also known as the 30-30 WCF, a name derived from a .30 caliber bullet loaded with 30 grains of powder. Designed in a time when there were numerous amounts of rimfire and centerfire cartridges, the need existed to define it as centerfire cartridge.

Pump Action Shotgun

Consider a Shotgun for Your First Firearm

If you’re thinking about buying that first gun, but are not sure which way you should go, consider the shotgun. Since its early days, the shotgun filled several roles, as it does today. It remains the only firearm capable of fulfilling nearly all functions of a gun, with very few exceptions.

Bullet Exiting Barell

Interior Ballistics

There are four types of ballistics, interior, exterior, terminal, and forensic. Today we will tackle interior ballistics. Watch my posts over the next few weeks to explore the other ballistic theories. These are very basic principles. Each one is an extensive and fascinating study in physics and math. Please do not let the math and physics scare you. I hope that you will continue to explore these fascinating theories.


Cartridge of the Week, the 7.62x54R

The 7.62x54R (rimmed) cartridge is one of the oldest of the modern cartridges, which uses smokeless powder. The designers never had black powder in mind. It was the beginning a new age in firearms. The new smokeless powder needed enhanced cartridges, due to the increased pressures of the new powders. In 1891, Russia adopted this cartridge for its military services. It is still in use today, 121 years later, and continues to gain popularity.

Basic Reloading

Hand loading and reloading my own ammo is something I’ve enjoyed for years. It takes a bit of preplanning and preparation to get started, but once set up it can be a very rewarding hobby. In this post, I am sharing some very basic and general steps to give you an overall idea of the process of loading and reloading.

Lee Reloading Kit

Lee Reloading Kit

First, I recommend reading and studying a few books on this topic and learn the safety rules as you will be working with explosive, flammable, and lead products. Be prepared to invest time studying how-to manuals and user guides. You can buy a kit or buy the tools as you go along. You can learn the process over several days. However, you still need to be prepared to invest considerable time to do this the right way and safely.

Finally, if you are delving into this to save money, stop now and go no further. Unless you are loading older, obsolete, and hard to find, cartridges that are already very expensive, then this is not a money-saving solution for most of today’s common calibers. I reload because I have some of those older cartridge needs and because I am looking for the perfect bullet, in one caliber that will perform at distances in a constant and consistent manner.

1. Buy a Book
The first step, and I believe one of the most valuable, is to get a good, modern and comprehensive reloading manual. Two good sources I use are Modern Reloading by Richard Lee, and Lyman’s Reloading Handbook 49th Edition. The majority of the first chapters will get you up and reloading in no time.

Damaged Brass

Figure 1

Badly Damaged Brass

Figure 2

2. Inspect Your Brass
You must inspect each piece of brass (case) you intend to load, even if new. Look for cracks, minor dents as in Figure 1, or major damage to the brass and discard if unusable as in Figure 2.

3. Resize and Deprime Brass
If slightly off in size, on new brass or all used brass, then you can use carbide die sets to reshape the brass. If you already have standard dies then use case lube before you resize brass.

Insert the sizing die into the press. The height of the die is adjustable. Initially, set it high. You can lower the die if needed. Place your brass in the press shell holder.


Figure 3

Pull the handle on the press and insert the brass into the die. This adjusts the brass to the correct shape and size. It will also deprime used brass as the pin, seen at the bottom of Figure 3, pushes the old primer out of the primer pocket.

Dirty Primer Pockets

Dirty Primer Pocket

4. Debur Case
With used brass, you will notice that the primer pockets can be dirty or rough. You should clean primer pockets in this condition with a deburring toolby inserting it into the primer pocket and hand turning. You will also need to debur the mouth of the case. The deburring tool can do both jobs.

5. Clean and Polish Brass
You may choose to add another step at this stage. Some loaders choose to not just clean but polish the cases as they are now sized, de-primed, deburrred, and ready to load.The brass goes into a tumbler along with a media mix and will both clean and polish the brass. Clean brass, not polished, is all that is required. You should only have to tumble brass that is exceptionally dirty.

6. Priming the Brass
Once the brass is cleaned and polished, inspect the cases once more for any abnormalities. If you have a single stage press, you will need to use a hand-held priming tool. This is a simple process but you need to do it correctly and safely. Read your manual carefully to ensure your safety.

WARNING: Primers are explosive so keep your face away from the hand-held primer tool and remember that multiple primers in close proximity can start a dangerous chain reaction.

7. Measuring the Powder Charge
Getting the right amount of powder, to charge your cartridge, is of course the most critical step in the loading and re-loading process. You should be very comfortable with the knowledge you need to properly charge the cartridge, WHEN IN DOUBT, POUR IT OUT and start completely over again. There are numerous powder scales to choose from that are either manual or electronic.

8. Charging the Case
Your powder measurement now confirmed, by the scale, you then transfer the powder into the cartridge case. Have a system in place to move the cases from one side of the bench to the other once charged. Uncharged and charged cases should never be near each other and a consistent method must be in place to keep them separate at all times. A double charged cartridge will at minimum destroy your firearm and at worst severely injure or kill the shooter or onlookers. WHEN IN DOUBT, POUR IT OUT, even if that means numerous cases.

9. Seat the Bullet
If you have a single stage press you can now insert the bullet-seating die. Always start high and adjust to the correct depth. Measure the bullet length with a caliper. This will set the bullet and provide some amount of crimp.

10. Insert and Crimp the Bullet
Some die sets come with a crimping die. If your set includes a crimping die, then insert and crimp the bullet in place.

There it is you have just reloaded your first cartridge. The satisfaction of shooting your first hand loaded cartridge is one that is hard to describe. So go get a book and start learning.

PMR30 and FN5-7 side by side

PMR-30 vs FN5-7

The argument about the relative merits of these two pistols has gone on for years. Let’s take a look at the technical parameters and then compare the intangibles. The guns are roughly similar in size, with PMR30 just a little shorter and slimmer. Both have manual thumb safety. FN5-7 magazines are easier to load. PMR30 has less felt recoil and crisper trigger.

Puma PPS50 drum byBlack Dog Machine keeps each cartirdge separate and not under pressure.

On Reliability of Drum Magazines

Drum magazines have long had a bad reputation. “We found many Angolan and Cuban soldiers dead, with jammed RPK drums in their rifles” said a South African veteran. “PPSh drums had to be down-loaded by a few rounds, usually had to be fitted to individual submachine guns, and jammed more often than box magazines” wrote Soviet veterans of WW2. And yet drums persist in weapons large and small — have you ever wondered why?

Gunpowder outside a cartridge

Grains do not Refer to Gunpowder?

This may seem basic to some of you shooters out there, however the number of calls we get referring to this little misnomer may surprise you. When buying factory ammunition, referring to grains has nothing to do with how much gunpowder the cartridge has. The term grains refers to the projectile’s mass or weight.

Rimfire .17 HRM and .22 Magnum

The .17 HMR is Here to Stay

In 2002, Hornady introduced the .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire, which we lovingly call the .17 HMR. Usually, rimfire cartridges that are not in .22 caliber do not sell well, but this one caught on like a wildfire. There has never been a hugely successful rimfire caliber smaller than .22, until now.

5.56x45 NATO

Is 5.56 the Best Option for Everyone?

Many people love the AR-15. If you are not one of them, then a large number of gun enthusiasts might tell you to go pound sand. The platform is versatile, deadly, readily available, and somewhat affordable. When shoppers first start looking at battle rifles, they tend to start at the bottom and eventually work their way up. Would be owners quickly realize that like most things in life, you get what you pay for. Entry-level ARs are often .223/5.56 semi-auto rifles with few to no options, and sometimes-shoddy construction. Guns that are more expensive offer rails with endless accessories, as well as different calibers. Just when you thought you knew everything there is to know about the AR-15, they change it up. So is a high end AR chambered in a wildcat or alternative caliber a good idea?


A Case for Steel Cased Ammo

Choosing the right ammunition for your combat rifle can be a daunting task. There are endless options when it comes to ammo, all of which can leave buyers confused and frustrated. With the rising cost of quality ammo, we field tons of questions about the use of steel cased ammunition. In light of this, I’m going to attempt to clear up some of the pitfalls that new shooters encounter when shelling out their hard-earned dollars for steel ammo. Some of you more advanced shooters may find this information somewhat basic, but read on anyway, you may learn something you didn’t know.