These flechettes were used in the Vietnam-era M546 APERS-T 105mm artillery shell, known to Vietnam vets as “The Beehive.” This devastating round was designed after the Korean War as a way to stop the human wave assault tactics used by the Chinese in that war. At a distance of 75 meters the Beehive shell detonates and sends 8,000 of these steel darts screaming downrange towards the enemy. Each steel flechette is roughly an inch long and weighs 8 grains or so, and upon impact they bend into a hook shape, with the finned tail section often breaking off to start a second wound channel. At close range the high velocity of the flechettes made the M546 extremely lethal; it was described as the world’s largest shotgun round. Legend has it that after the Beehives were used to repulse an attack, the enemy dead were often found in the field of fire with their hands nailed down to the wooden stocks of their rifles.
We are selling these flechettes as a piece of historic militaria only, and we do not recommend that you try to weaponize them, but we know what you’re thinking. Flechette ammo is illegal in some places, like Florida, so know your local laws before you stuff some of these in a 12 gauge shell. They are sold by weight, and each pound contains about 950 of these hardened steel projectiles.
At Gun Nuts Media, I have a post talking about Hornady Steel Match ammunition. This ammo is available from Cheaper Than Dirt in 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, .223 Remington, and .308 Winchester. Now, the debate about steel-cased ammo has raged on the Internet for as long as I can remember, with opinions that vary from “never use steel ammo” to “I use it all the time” and everything in between. I’ve known shooters who would use steel-cased ammo in certain guns but not others; I know people who say “never use it in Glocks”, and so on. The issue is that if you shoot a lot, it’s kind of hard to argue with less than $9.00 a box for 9mm ammo from our friends in Russia.
Tula 115 grain 9mm ammo: $8.69 for a box of 50
So what do you say? Do you run steel-cased ammo through your guns, pistols and rifles? Or would you not touch the stuff with a 10-foot pole? Add in to that the fact that many indoor ranges prohibit the use of steel-cased ammunition as it messes with their recycling contracts for brass, and the equation becomes even more complicated. I think one of the big issues that I have with the “anti” steel-cased crowd is that to my knowledge no one has ever done a truly high round count with steel-cased stuff to see if it actually increases wear and tear on guns. I’d like to see someone take a Glock 17 or other modern production firearm, and run 20,000 rounds of steel-cased ammo through it, and compare the wear and tear to a gun that’s had 20,000 rounds of brass-cased ammo. Would it be different? Hard to know unless we do the shooting.
For me, I’ll keep using steel-cased ammo. Sure, I can only use it at outdoor ranges, but that’s fine with me. Sound off in comments—are you for or against using ammo in a steel case?
Last week, Ruger announced the launch of the new Ruger 77/357, which is a bolt action rifle chambered in .357 Magnum. I got to thinking about this gun, and despite the fact that it only has a 5 round magazine, when paired with a revolver also chambered in .357 Magnum such as the Smith & Wesson 686 you have yourself an almost perfect “zombie combo”, or more accurately you’ve got a great rifle/pistol combination for the woods.
BVAC .357 Magnum 158 grain JHP
The Ruger 77/357 has all the desirable aspects of a great “bug out rifle” – it’s light, coming in at only 5.5 pounds, can readily accept modern optics (and would probably be a pretty sweet pairing with an Aimpoint), and it’s chambered in what is one of the most versatile handgun cartridges in existence. .357 Magnum is available in pressures from mild cowboy action loads at 1000 FPS with all lead bullets all the way up to 200 grain bear-killing hardcast bullets at ungodly velocities. However, for a good “general use” round it’s hard to beat a 158 grain JHP, like this one from BVAC. The BVAC .357 Magnum 158 grain JHP is cruising at around 1200 FPS from a pistol, which means from a rifle you should see a velocity increase of around 100-200 FPS at the muzzle. That’s plenty of bullet to deal with many of the 4 legged dangers you might encounter during a rural bug out situation, and of course the .357 is well proven as a fight stopping projectile for two-legged danger.
I honestly think that pairing a .357 bolt gun with a revolver makes more sense as a bug out gun combo for 99% of the popular than an AR15 pattern rifle and a hi-cap 9mm. I like that you only have to carry one kind of ammo, the revolver isn’t dependent on magazines to keep it in action, and while the bolt gun does feed from magazines in an emergency it can be used as a single shot rifle if you lose the magazines. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have an AR and a Glock with 400 mags for each gun, but if you’re on a limited budget, it makes more sense to me to drop $650 on the new Ruger 77/357 and another $460 on a Ruger SP101 in .357 Magnum than it does to go out and spend the money on an AR and whatever other pistol you need. .357 ammo is relatively cheap, with lead practice ammo running about the same as .40 S&W and less than 5.56 ammo. A bolt gun in .357 and a good revolver in the same chambering will solve 99% of the situations I can imagine getting myself into during a short term survival emergency!
A few days ago, Tam (if you’re not reading her blog, you should be) put together a list of the various calibers she keeps on hand to shoot through the various guns in her collection. It’s a pretty extensive list, as it should be for a collector of obscure firearms. My own list is a little more mundane, but it also fits my collection of guns which are all primarily uses for competition and heavy shooting. That means that instead of a lot of different calibers, I have a lot of rounds of just a few calibers. On hand right now are the following calibers:
Military style rifles are not usually known for having match grade accuracy, but the AR-15 can be easily upgraded with just a few parts to be more than capable of shooting sub MOA groups out to distances exceeding 600 yards. Swap out the trigger for a Timney and replace the barrel with a heavy stainless steel varmint or match barrel and you’ll be surprised by the significant increase in accuracy. But the biggest improvement may not come from the rifle at all, but from the ammunition you use.
I got started shooting cheap military surplus 5.56mm NATO rounds in my AR, along with cheap Winchester white box and Remington .223 FMJ plinking rounds. These cartridges were usually 55 or 62 grain and had decent accuracy. I still use them for plinking and just having fun at the range. But when you want to get serious about target shooting, you need better ammo. The biggest differences between mass produced ammunition and match grade ammunition is the quality of the components and the attention to detail to ensure every round is exactly the same.
You can buy match grade ammunition from a number of manufacturers. Remington and Hornady both manufacture excellent match grade ammunition. Varmint ammo from Remington and Hornady is just as accurate as the match grade ammunition, but is loaded with lighter bullets weighing between 40 and 55 grains. This factory ammunition is easily capable of shooting half-MOA groups is an excellent place to start establishing a baseline for your own handloads. Shoot a variety of loads and bullet weights to find out which performs best in your rifle and start loading your own based off of this data.
When selecting the proper bullet, keep your barrel twist in mind. We’ve written in the past on the importance of barrel twist rate with regards to bullet weight or, more accurately, bullet length. For any given caliber of ammunition, the heaver the bullet is the longer it will generally be. Longer bullets require a faster twist rate to get them spinning at a high enough speed for effective stabilization in flight. If there is a specific load you just have to run, consider rebarreling your rifle with a barrel with a more appropriate twist rate.
The first barrels produced by Colt for the AR-15 had a slow 1:14 twist rate, which was adequate for 55 grain bullets under normal circumstances. However when air density increased due to lower temperatures, the 55 grain became unstable. This prompted the Army to switch to a faster 1:12 rate barrel, and later an even faster 1:7 rate barrel to accommodate heavier 62 grain M855 bullets. Most modern rifles have a 1:9 twist rate, which has been found to be a healthy compromise that is able to stabilize bullets weighing from 50 grains on up to some 69 grain bullets.
Varminters often use very light weight bullets such as the 45 grain Sierra Hornet. Such bullets are exceptionally accurate in order to hit small targets, lightly constructed to provide explosive expansion while minimizing ricochets, and lightweight to obtain high velocities with flat trajectories. The extremely flat shooting varmint round is perfect for taking small game at unknown distances. Competitive shooters on the other hand tend to favor longer and heavier bullets with an aerodynamic boat tail design. These long bullets have a superior ballistic coefficient which allows them to maintain a high velocity for a longer distance, thus making them less prone to wind drift at extended ranges.
One concern when loading heavier longer bullets for your AR is the overall cartridge length. Heavier bullets are longer, and there is a limit to how far back they can be seated. Standard AR-15 magazines can hold cartridges up to 2.275 inches long. If you are loading rounds with heavy 79 grain or heavier bullets, such as 90 grain Sierra MatchKings favored by long range target shooters, the overall cartridge length will likely exceed 2.275 inches, requiring you to load and fire these handloads one at a time. If you are preparing a load that is over-length, it is important to make sure that your barrel is designed to handle it. A barrel with a 1:7 twist is generally not sufficient to stabilize bullets weighing over 77 grains (however some shooters claim to be able to stabilize 90 grain bullets in a 1:7 barrel), but more importantly, in longer handloaded cartridges the bullet could be swaged up against the lands of the rifling and cause overpressure in the case. Barrels for the longest of these loads will usually be custom made with a 1:6 or 1:6.5 twist rate and have a longer leade (the unrifled portion of the bore just past the chamber) to fit the longer bullet.
Depending on the weight of the bullet you are pushing, you will need different powders. Faster burning powders are more effective for propelling relatively light weight bullets. Slower burning powders in general should be used with heavier bullets. For our purposes here, powders such as Reloader 7, Reloader 10X, Accurate 2015, IMR4198 or Hodgdon H322 are excellent choices for accurate varmint loads topped with light 40 grain to 55 grain bullets. Reloader 15, H4895, IMR4064 or Varget are all good choices used for accurate match loads that propel heavier bullets weighing 60 grains and more.
When developing a load, always start at 90% of the manual recommended max load and work your way up, checking for signs of overpressure as you gradually increase the powder charge. If you don’t have enough powder of one type or another, get more: never mix powders! Mixing powders can result in unpredictable burn rates and could cause a case rupture or detonation.
When choosing a primer for your match loads, stay away from hard military style primers. Most match triggers will not generate primer strikes hard enough to reliably shoot hard primers. Instead, stick with high quality standard small rifle primers such as CCI 400 or Winchester WSR primers for most loads, and Federal Gold Medal 205M for heavier match loads using slower powders.
Brass for match grade or varmint loads should always be cleaned and polished. This not only makes it chamber better, but it removes any carbon or debris from the case resulting in better more consistent powder burn. When resizing, don’t rely on just a neck resize. For the most accurate loads your brass should be fully resized to ensure a consistent case capacity. Fully resized cases also fit the chamber better. What brand of brass you use isn’t particularly important, but some shooters prefer Winchester or .223 Remington brass due to the consistent case weight and wall thickness.
When trying to wring every bit of accuracy from a handload, the devil is in the details. Turning the neck of your brass will help to ensure that your case mouth is perfectly round and concentric with the case body, giving you a consistent crimp and seal all the way around your bullet and positioning it perfectly concentric with the bore. RCBS makes a case neck turner and .223 pilot to help you turn the perfect case neck. Necks that are out-of-round can have gas escape around the bullet prior to the bullet entering the bore and result in an uneven bullet release. A perfectly even bullet release helps to ensure that it swages onto the rifling evenly.
One of the primary reasons for handloading is that it gives you the ability to ensure absolute consistency among all of the rounds. Handloads that are quickly and carelessly assembled may be great for plinking and making a bunch of noise, but they are useless for precision shooting. Additionally, carelessly assembling your rounds can be dangerous! Double charged or poorly measured loads can destroy your expensive rifle and kill or seriously injure you. When sitting down to reload, get rid of all possible distractions. Never watch TV or have a conversation while reloading. Dividing your attention between the task at hand and something else can result in a mistake that could prove deadly. Remember that the more attention you give to the quality and consistency of your loads, the more accurate they will be.
All load data presented here should be used with caution. Consult a reloading manual and always begin with a reduced load to ensure that they are safe in your particular rifle before proceeding to full power loads. Cheaper Than Dirt! has no control over the quality of the components that you choose, the condition of your rifle, or the actual loadings you use, and therefore assumes no responsibility for your use of data presented here.
Since the early days of firearm building, armorers noted that if they imparted spin to the projectile that it greatly enhanced in-flight stability and accuracy. The earliest rifles had numerous bands of metal that were forged together and twisted to create the helical shape of the rifle groves. As machining processes were developed and refined, hammer forged barrels became popular as they were much stronger and much more precise.
Match season is almost here, and this past weekend I shot my first USPSA Production match since August of 2009 – the good news is that all the practice I’ve done in the past year and a half has really improved my shooting. The bad news is that my hat-cam went down and ate all my footage, meaning that I’ve only got one stage to show you a clip from for Down Zero TV. This was my final stage of the day, Stage 3. Here are the results from that stage. I finished 4th on that stage, and since position 1 and 2 were both GMs, I don’t feel too bad about that. Video from the match is to the right.
Results: 6th place, and I shot 75% of the GM that won the match. For my first Production match of the season and first match using the new P250, I’m pretty happy with that result.
The match itself was very good, the crew at Paul Bunyan puts together good, well designed stages. Lots of options, some challenging shots, and lots and lots of steel were the theme at this match, and many shooters (myself included) paid the price for trying to machine gun the steel.
Guns and Gear
The Sig P250 continues to run well; as I mentioned on Gun Nuts I’m getting a short trigger for the gun which should decrease the trigger reach and allow me to get slightly faster follow up shots. My splits were a little slow at this match; I noticed trigger fatigue setting in on a couple of the longer field stages where I had to pull the trigger 30+ times. Obviously, I need to build up my trigger pull strength with more dry fire.
I used two different types of ammo for this match, a mix of S&B 115 grain FMJ and PMC 115 gr FMJ. No issues with the rounds, everything performed reliably and accurately in the gun. As an aside, this is the first gun I’ve had that really runs S&B ammo well; I’ve avoided it for years in other guns, but the Sig P250 eats it up no problems.
This weekend, I’ll shooting my first IDPA match as part of Down Zero TV; this footage will part of the premiere episode of Down Zero TV as well. Hatcams, 3rd person, and even more importantly the commentary to tie it all together. The goal for this weekend’s match will be to shoot the entire match clean; barring that I’ll shoot the match with as few points down as possible.
A common belief among serious bullseye shooters and NRA Action Pistol shooters is that hollow point ammo (JHP) is generally more accurate than standard full metal jacket ammo. What I was told is that this is because JHP ammo, such as the excellent Speer Gold Dot bullet is manufactured to better tolerances and with better QC than FMJ ammo. Lately, through my sponsorship with Cheaper than Dirt, I’ve been shooting the excellent BVAC 9mm 124 grain JHP load. Let’s talk about the accuracy of this load for a minute.
Using a stock Sig P250 full-size 9mm, I shot a 2.3 inch group at 25 yards using the BVAC 124 grain 9mm. I also used the BVAC ammo for one of my favorite drills, a “walk-back” drill. Start with a 3×5 card at 5 yards, fire 5 rounds. All five should go in one hole at 5 yards. Move the card to 7 yards and fire 5 more rounds, all 5 rounds should hit the card. Repeat at 10, 15, 20, and 25 yards. I didn’t drop any hits until 20 yards where I dropped one shot, and then at 25 yards I dropped 2 rounds. Using the BVAC 9mm ammo, I dropped a total of 3 shots out of 30; and the reason I dropped those hits had absolutely nothing to do with the ammo.
The muzzle velocity on the BVAC ammo averaged at 1066 from my Sig P250 with a 4.7 inch barrel under ideal conditions (well lit indoor range at 68 degrees F). That makes a power factor of 132, good for IDPA or USPSA competition. Recoil is mild, which is to be expected with a full size 9mm handgun, but the BVAC also avoids excessive muzzle blast and some of the other issues that plague other 124 grain rounds.
Of course, what really makes the BVAC 124 grain 9mm ammo attractive is the price. Less than 14 bucks for quality, accurate, reliable ammo? I’ll take it! And if you shoot in bulk like I do, you can also get BVAC’s excellent 115 grain JHP 9mm load in boxes of 1000 rounds for $234 plus shipping. I’ll take that too.
The new SOST round from Federal Cartridge was engineered for the United States Marine Corps as a supplemental/replacement round to M855 green tip with more desirable terminal characteristics. NSN # 1305-01-573-2229, designated as the MK318 MOD-0, this round was designed as a “barrier blind” round and has superior penetration and better ballistic stability when shooting through glass, car doors, and other barriers where lesser rounds might be deflected. It was engineered after the Marine Corp identified barrier penetration issues with the M855 round. This new round utilizes a 62 grain open tip boat tail hollow point bullet with a lead core and reverse drawn copper jacket that creates an open tip.
From the press release from ATK:
MINNEAPOLIS, MN — Alliant Techsystems (ATK) announced today that it has received a $49 million contract from the U.S. Navy to produce a new special operations ammunition round with improved accuracy, stronger barrier penetration, and a lower muzzle-flash. ATK Security and Sporting developed the round in partnership with the Naval Surface Warfare Center – Crane Division under the Special Operations Science and Technology (SOST) ammunition program.
The SOST ammunition will be manufactured in 5.56x45mm and 7.62x51mm calibers, and is short-barrel optimized. It is designed for use with the MK16 and MK17 Special Operations Combat Assault Rifle Weapon System. Production will be performed at ATK’s Federal Premium Ammunition plant in Anoka, MN. Deliveries are expected to be completed in 2015.
“ATK is the clear leader in developing new ammunition technologies for commercial use,” said Ron Johnson, President of ATK’s Security and Sporting group. “We are now applying our research and development capability to satisfy the needs of our special operation forces.”
The new SOST 5.56mm and 7.62mm ammunition adds to ATK’s portfolio of specialized ammunition, including long-range products for both law enforcement and military applications.
ATK is an aerospace, defense, and commercial products company with operations in 24 states, Puerto Rico, and internationally, and revenues of approximately $4.8 billion. News and information can be found on the Internet at www.atk.com.
Winchester ammunition has issued a recall for certain lot numbers of its .223 caliber Ranger ammunition. This recall only affects .223 caliber Ranger ammunition loaded with 64 grain Power-Point bullets.
Olin Corporation, through its Winchester Division, is recalling six (6) lots of its RANGER® 223 Remington 64 Grain Power-Point® (PP) centerfire rifle ammunition (Symbol Number RA223R2).
Lot Numbers (last four characters): DK01, DK11, DK21, DK31, DK41, and DK51
Through extensive evaluation Winchester has determined the above lots of RANGER® Law Enforcement ammunition may contain incorrect propellant. Incorrect propellant in this ammunition may cause firearm damage, rendering the firearm inoperable, and subject the shooter or bystanders to a risk of serious personal injury when fired.
DO NOT USE WINCHESTER® RANGER® 223 REMINGTON 64 GRAIN POWER-POINT® AMMUNITION THAT HAS A LOT NUMBER ENDING IN DK01, DK11, DK21, DK31, DK41 or DK51. The ammunition Lot Number is ink stamped inside the right tuck flap of the 20-round carton, as indicated here:
To determine if your ammunition is subject to this notice, review the Lot Number. If the last four characters of the Lot Number are DK01, DK11, DK21, DK31, DK41 or DK51 immediately discontinue use and contact Winchester toll-free at 866-423-5224 to arrange for replacement ammunition and free UPS pick-up of the recalled ammunition.
This notice applies only to RANGER® 223 Remington 64 Grain Power-Point® centerfire rifle ammunition with lot numbers ending in DK01, DK11, DK21, DK31, DK41, and DK51. Other Symbol Numbers or Lot Numbers are not subject to this recall.
If you have any questions concerning this RANGER® Law Enforcement ammunition recall please call toll-free 866-423-5224, write to Winchester (600 Powder Mill Road, East Alton, IL 62024 Attn: RA223R2 Recall), or visit our website at www.winchester.com.
Though not very common in the United States, the 6.5×55 Swedish cartridge has long been popular amongst European hunters. Since its inception in the late 19th century, the 6.5 Swedish has been known as a flat shooting caliber with relatively light recoil and superior sectional density. Though not particularly impressive when compared to modern high-velocity short magnum cartridges, the benefits of the round quickly become apparent once you’ve had the opportunity to shoot it.
The light recoil of the 6.5 makes it very popular amongst younger shooters and some female shooters who favor light rounds. It’s also supremely accurate and flat shooting. 6.5×55 120 grain deer cartridges loaded to higher modern pressures have a rise of only around 5 inches when fired at a range of 300 yards. This makes it very easy for a hunter to get “minute of deer” accuracy out of the round at a wide range of distances.
Designed in 1891, the 6.5×55 Swedish first saw action when it was produced in 1894 for the M94 Swedish Mauser. Its use continued through modern firearm development where it was utilized by the Swedish AG/42B semiautomatic rifle along with numerous machine guns such as the Kg/1940 Light machine gun, the Schwarzlose, and more common models like the Browning BAR and FN MAG.
The reason for the bullet’s sectional density is patently obvious when looking at the cartridge. The long bullet sticks conspicuously far out of the case neck. This long “freight train” style .264 caliber bullet boasts impressive penetration and a superior ballistic coefficient in spire point and polymer tipped versions. By way of example, 140 grain 6.5mm bullets are longer than larger and heavier .30 caliber 180 grain bullets. While the caliber of the bullet is relatively small compared to a .30-06, the elongated bullet design demonstrates impressive energy and penetration in 125-160 grain weights when taking game at ranges in excess of 300 yards. Though many in the United States dismiss the capability of the round for taking large game, it’s reputation amongst Finnish and Norwegian moose hunters speaks well to the effectiveness of the cartridge.
One of the only drawbacks to the 6.5×55 cartridge is no fault of the round: early model Mausers were not strong enough to take full advantage of the pressure capability of the cartridge. For this reason, the factory specifications for the load are significantly lower than the design is capable of. Later models such as the widely available M96 Swedish Mauser and almost all modern rifles are perfectly capable of handling the higher pressures. For hand-loaders, this means that it is possible to safely load the cartridge to higher pressures. In fact, a few modern loading manuals have different load specs depending on whether the round will be fired in an older Mauser or newer modern rifle, though most take care to only list the older lower pressure loads. With 48 grains of IMR 7828, a 130 grain bullet can be safely propelled to a velocity exceeding 2,900 FPS.
Despite the light weight of many 6.5mm bullets, this cartridge seems to perform better with slower burning powders. As always, when developing a load start out at half the powder weight and work your way up while checking for signs of overpressure.
The 6.5x55mm Swedish cartridge has been around for well over 100 years and continues to enjoy enormous popularity both in Europe and more recently in the United States. Given the performance of the round, it’s not hard to see why. Light recoil, flat shooting, great accuracy, and a wide range of loads make it attractive to target shooters and hunters alike.
Many shooters who love the idea of firing cheap, plentiful, .22 Long Rifle ammunition have long flocked to .22 conversions for their pistols and rifles. Many have just as quickly been turned off by the various issues encountered trying to reliably feed rimfire ammunition through a semiautomatic firearm.
Enter the M-22: Winchester has developed a new .22 caliber rimfire round that promises to feed and function reliably in most high-capacity semiautomatic firearms. From their press release:
Winchester® Ammunition continues to invest in its rimfire product line with the development of a new 22 LR round for use in Modern Sporting Rifles (MSR).
New for 2011, this bullet is designed and packaged specifically for use in the growing number of high-capacity MSR 22 LRs. The new M-22 features a 40-grain Plated Lead Round Nose bullet optimized for reliable feeding in high capacity magazines. In addition, the M-22 utilizes non-corrosive priming and clean burning powder that delivers an ultrafast 1255 fps velocity and exceptional accuracy.
“The M-22 is designed for the high capacity MSR and provides a smooth functioning, affordable option with great accuracy,” said Brett Flaugher, vice president of sales and marketing for Winchester Ammunition. “We made the M-22 available exclusively in a 1000-round bulk value pack to meet the demands of our customers at an attractive price point.”
The new M-22 LF Bullet features:
• Velocity: 1255 fps
• Grains: 40
• Bullet Type: Plated Lead Round Nose
• Cartridge: 22 LR
• Availability: 2011
Winchester is Proud to be a Leader in the Shooting Sports
Winchester® Ammunition pledged $500,000 to permanently endow the NRA’s Marksmanship Qualification Program, thus becoming the exclusive sponsor of the officially renamed Winchester/NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program.
The Winchester/NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program is a self-paced shooting development program. Open to adults and youngsters alike, the program measures an individual’s shooting proficiency against established par scores in 13 courses of fire across three disciplines: pistol, rifle and shotgun.