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You need a lot of money to buy cheap. Not true at The Powder Keg. We test our products thoroughly before stocking, meaning we and not our customers pay the school fees of learning.

Our mission is the highest value price-to-performance gear. We use what we sell and we sell what we use!

Our value lies not in the number of brands that we represent but in choosing carefully those products that we sell.

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Field Target Optics – Kahles 1050FT

Field Target is a air gun discipline that takes place in the outdoors in varying weather conditions and at varying distances with targets set between 8m and 50m.

The World Championships were recently held in Wales.  Lauren Parsons, silver medalist in the woman’s section and Proteas captain Reghardt van Jaarsveld are both using the Kahles 1050FT scope.

Reghardt describes the Kahles scope as the best high end scope for FT that he has used. Reghardt has owned and used all the high end scopes and says that Kahles (in his opinion) is better than all others even though some well known optics are significantly more expensive.

The range finding accuracy of optics through the different temperature ranges is critical for shooters to perform at the highest level. Reghardt says that even under extreme weather conditions he has not experienced a shift in ranging. Kahles optics are produced from a solid aluminium bar that is pre-treated to remove strains and stresses.

Irrespective of the moment in the World Championships Reghardt never had any concern or doubt of a mistake in reticle rotation because the 17 MOA per rotation has a calibrated reticle for bracketing to double check ranging or where ranging is impossible due to heavy mirage or very dark situations.

Reghardt in the subconscious state, critical for precision shooting. Other features that Reghardt likes on the Kahles scope is the illuminated reticle, even spacing between ranges on the “side-wheel” and a 30mm tube which eliminates the need for special more expensive mounts.

Reghardt and Lauren have done ranging tests over a few leagues with the Proteas and Kahles proved the most consistent with the fewest ranging errors.  In case you wandered, Reghardt is not sponsored by Kahles, he paid full retail price for his scope. The Powder Keg and Kahles are proud to have an “independent” ambassador for the scope.

The Powder Keg congratulates Lauren for achieving a silver medal at the Worlds 2017 held in Wales last month.

Our choice of the best all-rounder hunting scope for Southern Africa

I was in Vienna when I heard “our hunting scopes are designed by hunters for hunters” that I decided it was time to evaluate what mattered most for hunting scopes used in Southern Africa.  Considerations do not include long range hunting, meaning that we talking distances of up to 400 m.

A scope reticle equates the front sight, it must point to where the gun shoots! The scope must first and foremost hold zero, hence robustness is a fundamental requirement.  The scope is the weakest link of rifle, scope and mounts?  Kahles won’t agree, this rifle found in the mountains 40 years after it was lost with their scope still functional.

30 mm tube diameters are the most widely used hunting scopes in Southern Africa;  a trend started on the incorrect assumption of greater light transmission. Other than greater turret adjustment there is no optical or robustness benefit of a 30 mm tube over a 25.4 mm tube scope. Light transmission is a function of lens coatings and the objective lens and not the tube diameter.

Choose the scope diameter which gives the best balance for your rifle; fit a 25.4 mm tube scope to a light small rifle and a 30 mm tube scope to a bigger heavier rifle.  Keep in mind that you can mount a 25.4 mm scope lower.

Ring mounted scopes are by far more popular than rail mounted scopes in Southern Africa. This is a trend based on the availability and lower cost of ring mounts vs. rail mounts.  A rail mounted scope offers many more advantages than a ring mounted scope, except that the lowest mount can normally be achieved with ring mounts.

Foreigners travelling to Africa often take a 2nd cheaper scope with them because anyway they almost all use detachable mount systems. Flight and safari costs are expensive whichever way you look at the Rand, hence a 2nd cheaper optic is a good insurance policy for them. As a minimum ensure that your open sights are accurate.

How to judge the durability of a scope?  I stay with trusted brands because they normally provide a host of other important benefits also. Some measure durability based on the scope guarantee; I am doubtful of that correlation. Test a minimum of 30 shots with every new scope, factory faults will show up early on.

Scope magnification and objective lens are important criteria based on application. A larger objective lens provides greater light transmission than a scope with a smaller objective lens. In Southern Africa light conditions are usually bright. Hunting stops shortly after sunset because the period of twilight zone is minimal.

For bright daylight hunting conditions in South Africa you will seldom, if ever, need an objective lens of greater diameter than 50. I like a scope and the rifle to be in proportion and the scope to be mounted as low as possible. My selection for Africa is a scope objective of 42 –  50; all you need and less bulky than a 56.

We are not considering long range hunting (over 500 m) where a larger objective lens does add benefit as the magnification is cranked up. Light transmission is a factor of the objective lens divided by the magnification. Below, testing the long range Swarovski DS hunting scope; fitted to a sporting gun for test purposes only.

Illuminated scopes? I doubt ever a situation in Southern Africa with the bright light conditions and a scope of good optical clarity that you will not be able to clearly see the black cross hair on an animal. Light conditions hunting in Africa are very different to hunting in Europe. If an illuminated reticle gives you more confidence then go with it.

Everyone ponders magnification.  Do not over magnify, especially in the hunt. When shooting off sticks I always advise to turn the magnification right down. You might think that you cannot see well but you will shoot better.  Less shake, more confidence and less risk to snatch the trigger. Prove it to yourself on the range!

The one gun (30-06) one hunting scope for Africaa magnification of 2-10 is ideal. With a power of 2 the field of view is wide enough for hunting the big 5 at close quarters and a 10 magnification is plentiful for hunting out to 400m, considering that 95% of your shooting will be between 100m and 350m. More mistakes are made at higher magnification than at lower magnification!

With a 10x magnification you do not need an objective lens greater than 50.  At a magnification of 10 you get an exit pupil of 5 mm which is sufficient light transmission for all hunting conditions in Southern Africa. Keep in mind we not discussing varmint hunting in moonlight conditions.

An important criteria is the lens coating! We always recommend to buy a scope with the “most” anti-reflection coatings that you can afford; the less light that is reflected back the greater the light transmission, and glare is minimized.

Turrets are a personal choice, either way they must be simple to use and you must practice with them.  I use turrets for longer range shooting (normally you have more time for set-up) and ignore the turrets for hunting up to 150 m. Simple and easy turrets avoid wasting time fiddling. You don’t need an accessorized scope! If you have spare cash buy turrets or else you better off buying higher quality lenses and using the “point-blank-sighting” range.

Hunting in Southern Africa is likely to be in dusty environments and dust quickly builds up on the lenses. Often overlooked is carrying a simple lens brush. Wiping lenses with a cloth can easily damage quality lenses.

Our “one” universal scope for hunting in Southern Africa is pictured below.  You don’t need more out to 400 m (10x), you don’t need a wider field of view (2x) and you don’t need a brighter image (50 objective). With Kahles you can buy turrets and fit anytime if you choose; AND you will never miss the moment!

See a new world with binoculars

Binoculars are fun and even more fun if you choose the right binoculars.  A lazy way of hunting is to rely on your professional hunter to select the game, but in doing so you miss out on the visual experience of being in the outdoors.

Likely you will use your binoculars more than you will use your rifle and scope, hence we recommend that you buy the best binoculars that you can afford. Your specific use is the most important selection criteria in choosing right.

My criteria for Africa is a pair of light and good optical clarity binoculars which I can always have with me, or close by me. Portability and good optical clarity wins in Africa over a heavy and bulky pair of binoculars of higher light transmission that you get with larger objective lenses. The Africa light is bright enough.

Hunting in Europe is typically from a hide and in low light conditions of early morning or late evenings. Here a bulky pair of binoculars is less of a handicap and you benefit from the light transmission of a larger objective lens.

The choice of magnification. Light transmission (size of exit pupil) is determined by the objective lens size divided by the magnification factor. You get greater light transmission (greater exit pupil) with smaller magnification assuming the same objective lens size. We recommend lower magnification with smaller objective lens binoculars. For walking or using binoculars in bright conditions my choice of binocular is an 8×32 (light, portable, used standing without shake and a wide field of view). An 8x has a wider field of view than a 10x and you can see all you need up to 400 m .

From stationary positions or low light conditions my choice is a 10×50 because you can normally set-up with a support, and the larger objective gets you last light. I never choose a binoculars of greater than 10x unless I am using it off a tripod or a dead rest because the “shake” distracts from the visual experience.  If needing more than a 10x magnification it probably becomes worthwhile considering a spotting scope.

The older style porro prism binoculars cost approximately 50% of the equivalent optical clarity in a roof prism binoculars.  I always advise to upgrade binoculars, even before upgrading your rifle, but where cost is a key factor and you accept a more bulky and older looking style binocular then porro prism is an excellent choice. Roof prism binoculars are lighter and less bulky but they cost more to manufacture.

If forced to choose one binocular only then I would select a roof prism in 8×42 – a fair compromise between weight, portability, brightness and field of view. This would be the 30-06, one rifle choice, but because I own more than one pair of binoculars and more than one rifle I do not own either a 8×42 binoculars or a 30-06 rifle.

Good binoculars have a diopter adjustment.  This setting equates the correction of a pair of spectacles.  I take care to set the diopter on the eye-piece accurately and then leave for a few years because your sight correction is stable (provided no-one else uses your binoculars). The diopter does not need to be changed for different distances!

Most binoculars are to some extent shockproof, waterproof, dust proof and fog proof.  The level of robustness is often a correlation of the price. I once bought a pair of binoculars and placed them in a basin of water overnight – a test I carried out while the product was under guarantee. Below, a scope being tested for waterproof at the factory.

For a light, compact and portable pair of binoculars it is especially important to chose a high quality optic because of image compromise with smaller lenses.  Lens coatings are critical, the more anti-reflective coatings the greater the amount of light that passes through. See the white circles on the eyepieces below, this is the exit pupil. A size of 4 mm is adequate for bright conditions in Africa, off-course larger means a brighter image.

Kim Jong-un having issues with his binoculars – all the “trouble shooting” in the world cannot improve his vision. Ego is like dust in his eyes.  He should clear his ego, invest in quality binoculars and see a new world!

Kahles optics at TPK

Visit The Powder Keg and see why Kahles is considered best in class. Kahles produce a premium 1″ scope with illuminated reticles.  Many hunters are upgrading to Helia 3 without the need to change their mounts. The 1″ tube transmits the same light as a 30 mm tube. Many customers choose the slimmer design to match their rifle and lower mounting.

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Kahles carefully considered their line of 30 mm scopes (CSX / CBX / Helia 5) and decided to standardize on a single range of premium 30 mm scopes (launched at IWA). The current range of 30 mm scopes are standout best in class when considering value for price, but we applaud this strategic direction of Kahles. We selling all stocks of premium 30 mm Kahles scopes at our cost in preparation for the standardized range.

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Long range shooters world over are literally going crazy about the K624i. The American market is taking every unit that is available. Vienna is supporting The Powder Keg initiatives on the hunting range of optics by giving us stocks of K624i, albeit a longer lead time. Kahles hunting optics have the same quality of lens, innovation and Austrian workmanship as does the K624i, it is only a matter of time before all hunters make the obvious choice in the Helia range of optics.

Official Dealer

Great news from Kahles is that the K16i, previously only available to law enforcement is now available to the civilian market. The special design of the K16i makes it the most robust scope in its class. The wide field of view, lens clarity and 1-6 magnification with reticle in the 2nd plane make this a winner for driven hunts or close-up encounters.

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I had the bad habit of not using binoculars when hunting. I never had quality binoculars as a young hunter and got by spotting through my rifle scope. Now that I recognize the value of hunting with binoculars I just could not get used to the bulk and weight around my neck, irrespective of straps or shoulder harnesses. The compact and light weight high lens quality Kahles binoculars have changed my world; I am a better hunter for that.

Kahles Fernglas

Kahles have pioneered many new innovations in rifle scopes. Their optical clarity and robustness is evident in scopes of more than 50 years old, allowing a worthwhile investment in color case hardening of steel tubes of old optics! Not for sale but for the soul; and to recognize Kahles the pioneer.

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Kahles conquering Africa

In this blog – why Kahles will conquer Africa. A public holiday in Slovenia was the ideal opportunity for Ales Spendal and I to travel to Vienna to meet with Peter Aichberger (head of global sales) at the Kahles headquarters and factory. In the entrance was this pictorial display of a rifle found in the mountains 30 years after it was lost. The Kahles rifle scope on this gun still functions and is on display, testimony to the robustness of Kahles optics.

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Kahles and Swarovski are in the same stable with regard to ownership, but they work independently from each other. The Kahles premises is a “GREEN BUILDING”, the entire premises’ temperature and humidity is kept constant without the use of fossil fuel and it shows.

The constant and static climate control in the process is critical to ensuring uniformity of metal forces considering that key components are produced to within 1 micron of tolerances. Scope tubes are produced from a solid bar of aluminium whereas most competitors would start with hollow tubes. In the picture below Peter is holding one such solid bar.

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Before processing the solid tubes of aluminium are placed in an oven under a specific (and secret) heating and cooling cycle in order to eliminate forces, stresses and tensions within the metal. Proprietary information is protected throughout the facility by having only 2 people, different people in each area,  entrusted with the data and set-ups. For example, Peter did not know the recipes for this particular process.

Kahles tubes are transformed from a solid bar of aluminium to a completed tube in a 2 stage process. This is significant because fewer stages means less inherent risk of product defects. Fewer transitions, greater consistentcy.

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A key observation was how human reliant the assembly process is. Austrians lead in automation, hence processes that remain reliant on people are not because of costs or technology, but simply necessary. The high work ethic of Austrians, given their part in assembly, is fundamentally why I will never buy a scope produced anywhere else in the world. I apologize for those who I may offend, but let’s not have our emotions moved quicker than our intelligence.

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The assembly area is clean, the work flow well organized within cells and each work station is supported with the highest level of technology and sophistication to support the individuals in their work. The work cells are “hooded” by a flow box that suctions any dust particles away from the work surface. In the picture below are the slippers that we had to put over our shoes, it literally felt like we were skiing around a floor surface that you could eat off.

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Ever had a concern about the waterproof capability of a Kahles scope? See the test below.  Trapped air would be immediately visible, similar to placing a bicycle tube in a tub of water to locate the leak. Air is vacuumed out of the scope and the scope is filled with Nitrogen prior sealing. Computerized tracking provides measurements throughout the process.

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Final inspection is carried out on 100% of the optics. This inspection includes validation of parallax which is simulated for different distances and the validation of reticle movement. The reticle movement parts are perfectly machined parts containing zero plastic.  In Peter’s words “one click is one click is one cm at 100m“. In the picture below are 2 persons responsible for final inspection. My ugly face is serving a purpose, obstructing the target viewing area which is proprietary information.

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We were showed the repair area, I estimated less than 50 scopes returned from global markets and only 2 persons working in the area. A statement of Kahles quality and workmanship. The importance of quality and reliability is the mechanism on the one hand and the lens optical clarity on the other. Some manufacturers succeed in one of these areas, a few in both; Kahles succeed not only in both but in bringing them together in a best in class optic.

Another observation is Kahles great leadership; Peter is clear on design drivers. Kahles is focused on features that matter to hunters and sport shooters such as robustness of build quality and optical clarity. Kahles selected green as the light spectrum of choice in their lens development because green is the dominant color in nature, and this truly means the first 5 minutes of daylight and the last 5 minutes of daylight belong to Kahles.

Spendal round body 308W

Peter is a keen and responsible hunter and this gave me the opportunity to understand some of the thinking behind Kahles designs such as why Kahles do not make a hunting scope with parallax adjustment. Peter was quick to add that parallax adjustment for shooters using high magnification scopes was in the development process special; Kahles developed an innovative and unique parallax adjustment (patented) which is integrated in the elevation turret making this critical long distance feature ergonomic for shooters. This parallax adjustment is integrated in the complete range of long distance “K-series” Kahles optics. Buy the worlds most sought after long distance scope, the K624i. Every scope produced is sold.

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Another important and critical reason why Kahles will become the driving force in South Africa is because The Powder Keg commitment to provide customers with the best products and after sales service. I personally carried 2 very old Kahles scopes of South Africans to Kahles for repairs.  What I learnt is that Kahles only repair scopes with a serial number from 340 000 onward. The one scope just scraped in.

I learnt from the scope with “hair” on the reticle that it is a phenomenon of previous generation scopes where particles from the inside of the tube would dislodge after years of use and be attracted to the reticle in a magnet type way. New reticle technology and anodized scope tubes have eliminated this problem. A “hairy” reticle can be cleaned by Kahles, but after further years of use the same phenomena could start to show.

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Why I prefer Kahles Helia 3 scopes (1″) for hunting.  Show me a higher quality 1″ scope with illuminated reticle – none. It is fallacy that you have greater light transmission in wider tube diameters. My prime requirement for scope fitment is a scope mounted as low as possible. A 1″ tube scope can be mounted lower than any of the wider diameter tubes. A hunting scope must be light and elegant to fit the gun (picture above). It is imaginary to think that a 30mm tube is stronger, all tubes are processed in the same manner.

An advantage of wider diameter scopes is the increased reticle movement capability. The main reason that you might run out of clicks on a 1″ hunting scope is poor mounts or poor mount fitment. The mount is the weak point between the gun and the scope, the reason why Europeans fit only quality mounts and the reason why Europeans upgrade their 1″ scope using existing mounts.

Below was our parting view of Kahles on 8th February 2017.

Portrait

Portrait

Technoframes cases and displays

ZERO range of ammunition boxes in black- safer, stronger, better, cooler - unbeatable features

ZERO range of ammunition boxes in black- safer, stronger, better, cooler – unbeatable features

My fascination with Italian business has been their ability to reinvent themselves and stay ahead of cheap knock offs and copies. Combine this entrepreneurial character with a renowned flair of leading global trends in design and engineering precision, then you get products such as these beautiful ammunition boxes from Technoframes.

Think of how we defined Italian kitchens in South Africa. Today none of those initial designs and materials are used in Italian made kitchens, they have long moved on to new designs and new materials that defy most of our concept of beauty and functionality. Fine guns are the art in my life that brings me the joy others see in a Picasso painting for example, so for me it is important to add uniqueness in everything that touches this fascination of mine.

At The Powder Keg we believe in a few important dimensions of life and business such as “what is the point to be average” and “we sell what we shoot and use vs. shooting and using stuff that we sell”. All of the products that we sell were first tested and trialed; when validated we try to find common ground in partnership with the supplier.

Some of my personalized ammunition cases from Technoframes

Some of my personalized ammunition cases from Technoframes

We like the functionality and design of the ZERO range of ammunition boxes. This range represents technical innovation and high quality manufacturing in a product that compliments the firearms that you own. These ammunition boxes provide shooters and hunters with a safer and stronger way to store ammunition; and the design and appearance just make it a “cool” ammo box to own.

Solid aluminium, brushed and anodized in silver - the new improved ZERO range from Technoframes

Solid aluminium, brushed and anodized in silver – the new improved ZERO range from Technoframes

The Zero range of ammunition boxes have unbeatable finishes, they are solid yet portable and can safely store up to 50 rounds (28 in some of the big calibers). The ZERO box has a resistant foam on the inside that prevents rattling and retains cartridges even when held upside down. The frame is constructed from solid aluminium which is precision engineered to perfection. Each case is manually brushed and anodized in either black or silver.

At The Powder Keg we understand the impact of the weak Rand on affordability of imported product hence our first shipment of ZERO ammunition boxes will be in silver and without caliber engraving.  The reason for this is that the black finish costs more to complete and the ammunition boxes have families of calibers allowing us to optimize the stock holding. We will listen to our customers and will adapt our strategy to customer needs.

The Powder Keg is in continual search of innovative new products that will add value to the passion of South African firearms enthusiasts. For those who reload this is a must, for everyone else who shoots a firearm it is a must also. I learnt from the Europeans the importance of investing in yourself, it is this commitment to life that drives the Italian design for excellence.

Kahles Ballistic Drop Compensator

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KAHLES ballistic drop compensation “hits the mark every time”

It is sometimes necessary to cover long distances. In such cases, there is a high demand for an easy-to-use device to help compensate for ballistic drop in order to ensure accurate long- distance shots. Precision, ease of use, flexibility and controllability combined with maximum accuracy: All of these important characteristics come together in the innovative and patented KAHLES ballistic drop compensation feature, offering everything you need for targeted shots over various distances.

We have developed our new and innovative KAHLES ballistic drop compensation feature with the help of our active customer focus and the insights that it gives us. It combines preci- sion and simple operation – everything you need at that crucial moment. With the KAHLES standard ballistic rings, which are available for common calibres, or the KAHLES individual ballistic rings*, which are tailor-made to customer requirements, achieving excellent shooting accuracy has never been so easy and straightforward. With the KAHLES ballistic drop com- pensation feature, the days of having to work out how far above your target you should aim when shooting at long distances are now over.

The KAHLES ballistic drop compensation device is housed in a fully robust case, available in two different variants: Polished brass or black anodised aluminium. It is available as an op- tion on all Helia 5 rifle scope models, and can also be retrofitted and used on older Helia 5 products.

The fitting or retrofitting of the KAHLES ballistic drop compensation device can be performed quickly by a gunsmith. This involves removing the elevation knob and replacing it with the ballistic drop compensation device along with the required KAHLES ballistic ring. The rifle is then sighted in at 100 metres and can be tested at several different shooting distances. This testing process means that independent adjustments (such as barrel length) are no longer necessary and that, after testing has been completed, the scope is professionally aligned to the relevant ballistics and rifle.

Reloading scales

trial and error getting to the optimum solution in powder measurement accuracy

trial and error getting to the optimum solution in powder measurement accuracy

In this blog I cover my experiences and learning in scales measuring powder for the reloading of rifle ammunition. I once bought the top end progressive RCBS loader for shotgun shell loading but without ever learning how I gave the equipment to Dennis Goslin who was shooting a lot of trap at the time (and still today). In Europe very few sport shooters load shotgun shells because the cost of new is relatively inexpensive and they claim that you cannot reload a shell of higher quality than factory ammunition. The converse is true with rifle ammunition.

My writing is not intended to convey facts on what the best reloading scale is because needs differ from person to person and hence the choice of scale will be different. The main purpose why I reload rifle ammunition is to have improved accuracy and bullet choice of optimum design for the application. Cost is a factor for those cartridges that just cost a bucket like 500NE, but generally my purpose is not a lower cost. It takes a lot of time to reload so I make this investment in time for high quality reloaded ammunition.

Hunting in Europe is expensive and generally limited when compared to South Africa. For this reason I find myself on the range in Europe more often than when I was in SA. The curses of being a perfectionist combined with range shooting push me to continuous improvement in accuracy not really needed for hunting in Europe (mostly short distances). I standardise on loads using premium components given my main purpose is “the love of the hunt”. I load for too many calibres to afford too many variables per calibre; I even push the limits on standardisation of powder between calibres to avoid a can of powder for each.

Back to scales, the picture shows me with my existing array of scales, and like for numerous other reloading equipment, I have given about the same number away to friends. Until recently my practice for all small and medium calibres was to set the RCBS ChargeMaster 1500 scale at 0.2 of a grain below the selected charge and then to trickle up on the RCBS 10:10 beam scale. I did a lot of reading on electronic scales but kept to the beam scale. In trying to improve the accuracy of my beam scale I read on a forum about Scott Parker in the USA who tuned beam scales to sensitivity of 1 granule of powder. I contacted Scott and he sent me an old Ohaus scale that he had tuned ($200).

It was at about the same time that I received the Ohaus scale from Scott that I bought the small and inexpensive electronic Peregrine scale. This scale is what prompted me to write this blog. The first time I used the scale I nearly gave up on it. This experience reminded me of learning to ski at 42; I nearly gave up on skiing when I first put skis on. Thank goodness I pushed through and discovered the greatness of skiing. The Peregrine scale was the same. It took me ages the first time I used it, but soon I learnt to pour from a trickler to close to the weight charge needed and then to trickle in the traditional way. It takes me almost the same time as the RCBS ChargeMaster would take to throw a load, but accurate to 0.02 of a grain. I now only use my Peregrine scale, except for 500NE.

A small issue that I don’t like about the Peregrine scale is the plastic dispenser. The static build-up created a mess when I first used it; I quickly replaced it with the metal dispenser from my RCBS 10:10. I owe it to the management and ownership of Peregrine to bring this to their attention, but I am comfortable writing about it because this scale has catered perfectly to my perfectionism in reloading. My school fees paid in reloading equipment upgrades is similar to the journey most golfers endure, upgrading drivers to get a few extra yards off the tea or a new putter to reduce strokes on the green.

My reloading bench in Slovenia

My reloading bench in Slovenia

Case Trimming

school fees paid getting to the ideal trimming solution

school fees paid getting to the ideal trimming solution

I consider case trimming to be a critical process in reloading; but a process I find the most laborious of all the reloading steps; then I discovered a trimmer that indexes off the shoulder datum of brass. Now trimming is a breeze!

I have included a picture of myself with the different trimming devices I currently have (excludes what I have given away). I used the lathe type approach until discovering WFT (World’s Finest Trimmer) and later Trimit which index of the datum of the brass shoulder. All the equipment trimmed to accurate case lengths, however WFT and Trimit cut the laborious time to trim by a factor of at least 5:1. Best illustrated in a timeline of development.

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The reason that you see 2 Forster lathe trimmers is that I needed to buy the Classic Case Trimmer when I started to reload for 500NE (trimming after each resizing is necessary to match case lengths with bullet crimp grooves).
When I had lathe trimming devices I would trim cases when case lengths got close to the maximum length tolerance, but now the process of trimming with WFT or Trimit is that quick that I trim every case after sizing. The advantage of this is that I am assured of equal neck tension due to equal neck lengths and ensure cases that will be crimped match the die setup to bullet crimp groove.

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What is the difference between WFT and Trimit? The first WFT model has a fixed die insert; for every calibre family you require a standalone body with fixed die insert. This is the cheapest option if you reload for a single calibre or have calibres in the same family (e.g. 243Win /260Rem /7mm-08 /308Win). My preferred equipment (more expensive) is having this model for each of my calibres’ because I only setup once and never again. I changed away from lathe trimmers because of time to trim which for me includes setup time. This way I am assured of having the same case length from batch to batch year after year.

WFT2 has interchangeable die inserts meaning that you buy the body once and die inserts for the different calibres; cheaper option for loading of more than one calibre. This is fine but you must do the setup every time you change calibres. Trimit1 is identical in function (interchangeable die inserts) with the added benefit of a micrometre setting. I find this useful given the need to change setup when changing calibres and getting back to the same length setting as previously cut for that calibre. This is the reason that The Powder Keg stocks Trimit1 and not WFT2.

Trimit2 is a 3 in 1 process with the added benefit of inside and outside chamfer and deburr; similar to the Forster 3 way cutters which work on their lathe trimmer. Forster 3 way cutters work well but they are only available on a limited number of calibres. The Trimit2 has interchangeable dies but I find the setup a little more sensitive, but then I am technically challenged. If money was no issue and if I was starting without any existing trimming equipment I would buy a Trimit2 for each calibre I reload for. Set-up once and never again with the benefit of chamfer and deburr of case mouths.

It is important that when using case trimmers that index off the shoulder datum that you stick with the same sizing process i.e. if you change from neck sizing to full length sizing or vice versa then you will have the cut length marginally impacted. The picture shows trimmer for a 9.3×62 case, my favourite European calibre; normally I trim outside to avoid the trimmings “mess”.

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Cases of uniform length are an important part of good case preparation, now we have the equipment that allows you to trim cases to accurate lengths in quick time. Make the effort in good case preparation and be rewarded with consistent accuracy. Know what matters and focus on what matters – case trimming.

neck turning & neck tension

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Here are some of my insights into case neck turning and case neck tension. I strive to load the most accurate hunting rounds possible; my hobby, my perfectionism, my drive for continuous improvement and compensation for being an average marksman. The reality is that no matter how good your equipment is, it counts for zero if you cannot use it. When I encounter problems I get to understand the root cause of the problem in order to avoid repeat issues. The purpose of the blog is not information on setups or procedures, such information is available in many forms, but to share some of my practical findings that may help you.

Case neck turning is performed for accuracy improvement or when the need arises to cut away excess brass flow at the neck and shoulder junction (after multiple loads). I will discuss the elements of accuracy; if a need then no discussion, just do it. Uniform neck turning will contribute to improved bullet seating concentricity (provided case alignment) and uniform neck tension around the circumference of the bullet. The need for neck turning is largely influenced by the quality of brass being used. I find less benefit in turning Laupa and Norma case necks because their uniformity is good anyway. If you don’t want to outside neck turn cases then as a minimum buy quality brass.

I find the benefit of case neck turning to be minimal for bigger calibers. I have loaded a lot of 9.3 x 62, 9.3 x74R and 375 H&H; all shot sub MOA groupings without any neck turning or any special case sizing procedure. Given good accuracy results and given that these are hunting calibers used for shorter shooting distances I have stopped neck turning on bigger bores. I do not use sizing dies that require neck bushings nor do I use expanding mandrels in any of these bigger bores. I condition this practice with using quality brass. I have found loading for bigger slower calibres easier than for smaller higher velocity calibers. I found slower bigger calibers shoot better groups across a wide spectrum of bullet weights compared with smaller high velocity calibers.

Let’s now focus on the smaller bores. There is no absolute transition point because the application is more relevant in deciding the extent of case preparation. I have found bullet concentricity to have a significant influence on accuracy; I have not yet experimented with the influence of uniform neck tension on accuracy. I outside neck turn for reasons of bullet concentricity rather than for benefits in accuracy of uniform neck tension. Bench rest shooters and long distance shooters take every step in case preparation to ensure maximum uniformity because accuracy deviations are exacerbated in long range shooting.

Neck tension is the amount of grip the case neck has on the bullet. We are focused on smaller calibers hence crimping is not considered. I am not going to try define what the case neck tension should be because this varies between bench rest shooting, single shot rifles, hunting conditions, higher recoil calibers etc. Directionally bench rest shooters prefer less neck tension whereas hunting conditions or higher recoil calibers require more neck tension in order to avoid bullet creep in the field or in a magazine under recoil. I recommend that you experiment in neck tension for your particular rifle and use.

Neck tension is determined by how much smaller the inside diameter of the case neck is after sizing compared to the diameter of the bullet being seated. Case neck inside diameter should be in the range of about 0.01” to 0.04” less than the bullet diameter depending on application (and gun preference). For me what is more important is to keep the same neck tension from batch to batch after achieving a good load. Ensuring the same neck tension for all rounds is another reason why I trim cases after every resize to ensure case neck length uniformity.

You need to approach neck tension based on the equipment being used. If you are using competition type dies with neck bushings then you need to select the bushing size that gives the case neck tension desired. Selecting the proper bushing requires an accurate measurement of the case neck wall thickness. Be aware of the change in case neck wall thickness if changing the brand of brass or performing outside neck turning. My purpose is not to write about the different ways to select the bushing size (many articles on how) but to highlight those variables which may influence your choice of the reloading process; it certainly changed how I reload.

My trial (or stupidity) in trying to optimize case neck concentricity by removing the expander ball showed the effect of too much case neck tension. In an attempt to avoid the risk of case misalignment when the expander ball pulls back through the neck after the neck was down sized on the down stroke, I removed the expander ball. When I seated the bullets I had excess run-out, poor concentricity. The cause was too much neck tension on seating which impacted the bullet alignment. The inside neck diameter was too small compared to the bullet diameter.

I have many competition sizing dies with neck bushings but became frustrated by the variables in case wall neck thickness; hence I sought a method similar to the function of the expander ball but without the risk of case neck misalignment. What I like about an expander ball is that the inside case neck diameter is always the same after sizing irrespective of case neck thickness (same neck tension). I therefore added a step in my loading procedure that achieves the same as the expander ball in the sizing die but without the risk of case misalignment:

1. I remove the expander ball from the resizing die when sizing,
2. I use an expander die body fitted with expander mandrel to expand the inside case neck to a uniform inside diameter. Case neck alignment unaffected.

Expander die bodies, short & long, plus numerous of my expander mandrels

Expander die bodies, short & long, plus numerous of my expander mandrels

A valuable lesson learnt with this procedure, it is important that the case does not bottom out on the expander body die, this will impact case neck concentricity. Set the expander body die in the press so it cannot bottom out. I always check a sample of cases for concentricity after the different reloading steps to catch a concentricity problem before starting a further step in the process.

It would be amiss of me not to point out that if you always used brass of the same case neck wall thickness then sizing with a properly selected bushing would achieve the same outcome without the additional reloading step I perform with the expander mandrel. In this way you eliminate 100% of the risk of case neck misalignment provided you use precision quality bushings. I have bushings in a range of +- 0.01” hence I could change the bushing with small variations in case wall neck thickness but the reality is I find it difficult to get accurate case neck wall measurements.

precision measuring equipment to measure case neck wall thickness

precision measuring equipment to measure case neck wall thickness

I have travelled a full circle on outside neck turning. I started with the Forster hand held tool, then I bought the 21st Century lathe system with different cutter angles to prevent cutting into the shoulder. “Fancy” and it works well, but I use it less and less. I prefer to use quality brass and cut out on some of the need to outside neck turn. I always focus on concentricity and hence I perform the additional step of case neck expansion with an expanding mandrel on the smaller higher velocity calibers. Uniform neck thickness achieved with outside neck turning does contribute to bullet seating concentricity but with good brass I find the benefit minimal for hunting purposes.

I will close with a hunting lesson and habit that came out of reloading, but probably more my personality. I spend a lot of effort in brass preparation and care, I retrieve every fired brass from my rifle. At a recent pig hunt in Croatia I shot a running bore at 5m with a 9.3×62. My shot was slightly forward which swung the boar around to face me at 5m. I did not work the bolt like a bolt should be worked and this pussy had a jam and a wounded boar staring him down. I looked for a tree, but lady luck, there was Ales who saved my bacon. The lesson is obvious, forget about your brass in hunting situations, live for the hunt and not the brass.

Forget about your cases when shooting dangerous game - work your bolt like a bolt was designed to work

Forget about your cases when shooting dangerous game – work your bolt like a bolt was designed to work