Shooting Gear


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.


We going ballistic with 15% off Balistix  bullets until Friday 23 November 2018.  Below, wild boar hunting with Balistix in a 9.3×62 Blaser R93.

Developing a load takes time. Having developed the perfect load your component availability is key.  Balistix are proudly South African and availability is never compromised. 

A few reasons why it makes sense to start loading with Balistix bullets.  Proven in the field in Africa and Europe. Proven in hunting conditions and in 2 km long range shooting competitions.

Sick of copper fouling?  HBN covered Balistix bullets significantly reduce the amount of copper fouling allowing you to shoot more shots between cleaning, and cleaning is made easier. The bottle (below left) is a mixture of HBN and pure alcohol used to coat the barrel with HBN before shooting (run a wet patch).

Reducing the velocity spread of your loads. Competition shooters using HBN coated bullets report lower SD in their loads. Hunters count on their first shot accuracy. Hunters report that they significantly reduce the point of impact between the first and follow up shots.

Environmentally friendly 100% monolithic bullets – no lead.

Balistix bullets have a rebated boat tail giving the benefit of accuracy of a flat based bullet and improved BC for long range shooting.  Ease of bullet seating is an added bonus in this design.

Increased barrel life.  HBN coating reduces friction between barrel and bullet.  The drive band design of Balistix bullets reduce bearing surface contact between barrel and bullet.

Do not confuse Molly and HBN coating. Maybe the same objectives but HBN is resistant to the high heat generated in a barrel. Frequent cleaning of a barrel shot with bullets coated in Molly is essential.

The sun has set, the scale has tilted. Join the Balistix movement.  Shop online

Every component in a live bullet is an important part of the whole. Our choice is about those 2 components that are stand-out in the various components making up a live round and are within a reasonable cost.  Our choice focused on accuracy over low cost. Lower cost is a big part of why many reload; but we had to chose either accuracy or lower cost in order to substantiate our choice.

Our choice reflects on locally available components.  For this reason powder is not a consideration because the cost effective choice is limited to Somchem. 

When testing loads avoid the lucky rabbit’s foot syndrome, whereby, after having had a successful 2 or 3 shot group you stop you load development.

This week’s top gear choice in the category of reloading components is Laupa brass and Balistix bullets.

Firstly the brass – a quality case is vital in order to load accurate ammunition.  Quality means it must be consistently good. Consistency in reloading is vital for accurate ammunition.

Reloading takes time and time has a cost irrespective of whether we load for a hobby or other.  I consider the opportunity cost of time when reloading vs. buying ammunition off the shelf.  “We say”, if you are spending long hours loading rounds then make that effort worthwhile and use premium components.

Laupa brass has exceptional consistency in case neck thickness.  If you load with Laupa brass then neck turning is unlikely to make any difference on accuracy out to 300 / 400 m.  With longer distances the discussion of neck turning gets more attention.

Neck turning is primarily carried out to remove high spots for a more consistent neck tension;  and some competition rifles require a thinner neck diameter in order to chamber the cartridge. Many people new to reloading neck turn excessively – a too thin wall thickness has more negatives than positives.

You will hear people say buy cheap brass and turn the necks for better concentricity.  What matters is that the whole case is concentric; you cannot make a bad case concentric by turning the neck.

Laupa brass does not require primer flash hole deburring. The flash hole of Laupa brass is drilled.  If you buy brass where the flash hole is punched then you must deburr the virgin brass (one time only).

Uniform case volume reduces velocity spread.  Sorting cases by weight is better than doing nothing, but the true test is to confirm volume consistency using water.  I don’t generally validate case volume with water, BUT we did a volume test with a number of different brands and Laupa was the most consistent.  Norma and RWS were also consistently good.

Our 2nd choice of a reloading component is a monolithic bullet. We chose Balistix. 

Reasons why we chose Balistix:

1:) a rebated boat tail gives the accuracy of a flat base at shorter distances and the BC benefits of a boat tail at longer distances,

2:) HBN coating (superior to Molly). The coating increases barrel life, reduces pressures, significantly reduces copper fouling and results in a lower velocity spread, especially between hot and cold bore shots,

3:) ogive before the bands is a benefit in measuring seating depths and helps fine tuning of bullet seating,

4:) smooth bullet seating, the bullet is rebated at the same angle as the brass mouth after chamfer,

5:) drive bands (not a grooved bullet) reducing the bearing surface and barrel friction,

6:) accuracy – in lead core bullets the outside surfaces might measure true but what matters is the concentricity of the inside lead core (not seen),

7:) proven in the field – effective killing and minimal meat damage,

8:) environmental benefits of copper over lead.

9:) carefully chosen bullet constructions limit the need for excessive bullet types. In reloading what matters is availability and staying with a winning horse. Most dealers availability of a manufacturer with excessive types and constructions will be “hit and miss” because of the investment needed to carry all.

Follow us on Facebook for our weekly choice of 2 items of Top Gear – next week we take a look at optics through a clear lens. The purpose is not that readers agree on our choice but rather focus on the logic we cover. A choice is subjective but logic should be objective (fact based).  

The purpose is not to select the 2 most important items of reloading equipment but rather to select the most standout equipment that is within reasonable cost parameters. That is in our opinion.

For example, weighing of powder is a critical process in reloading, but if we do not classify a big differentiation in reasonably priced scales then we would not necessarily select a powder scale. We limited to only 2 items of choice.

Our first choice is a case trimmer that indexes of the shoulder of a case.  No more lathes.  Above are the WFT and Trimit models. If you choose a body that caters for die inserts (flexibility between calibers) then choose Trimit because the micrometer gets you back to case length measurements easier than having no micrometer.

I choose WFT 1 (their first model) because I prefer to have a fixed unit for each of the calibers that I reload for. Once set-up my trim length will be uniform for the rest of my days. I spend a bit more for the convenience and peace of mind.

With Trimit or WFT the process of trimming is that quick and easy that I trim every case after sizing – quicker than measuring case length.  There are many articles about the benefits of uniform case length. 

Our 2nd choice is the Forster Co-Ax press.  This press has been around for many years and still it comprises of unique and important features not found with other single stage presses.

Case concentricity matters. The Forster Co-Ax shell-holder free-floats to allow case and die alignment. I have bought and given away lathe trimmers, hand primers, scales, presses but my Forster press is now 15 years old and there to stay until something better comes along.

It is tough choosing only 2 items.  If we had availability in SA I would probably have selected LabRadar because it makes other velocity measurements obsolete. This unit does not yet have approval for SA.

There is equipment which, when we get through future week selections of Top Gear, will become apparent why they did not make our selection.

We not selecting the most important equipment in reloading, but that equipment that we consider to be “stand-out from the crowd” gear; and which is within reasonable cost parameters. To challenge ourselves we limited the choice to 2 items only.

The Powder Keg team was privileged to have the team from Balistix present the benefits and features of Balistix bullets to a few of our important customers. I have been testing these bullets in Europe for a few months already with exceptional results in accuracy and on many wild boar.

Lance Stevens of Lance Stevens Precision Rifles did the presentation. Key criteria in our 2 brand strategy is choosing carefully the product that is the highest value-price-to-performance AND having a a chemistry with the organization behind the product (competence and ethics).  Lance Stevens and his team will conquer and we partner with winners.

Reasons I switched 100% to Balistix 1) rebated boat tail, accuracy of a flat base and BC of a botail 2) HBN coating, far superior than Molly, increases barrel life, reduces pressures, significantly reduces copper fouling and results in a lower velocity spread, especially between hot and cold bore shots 3) ogive before the bands 4) smooth bullet seating for concentric alignment 5) drive bands (not a grooved bullet) reducing the bearing surface and friction 6) accuracy 7) instant kills with minimal meat damage.

In addition, reasons why The Powder Keg will carry Balistix is 1) the people behind the organization (passion / competence / humility / values)  2) they have carefully chosen bullet weights with limited design variations (fewer SKU’s). Customers must know that when they develop a load there will be stock availability. Retailers can invest their capital in a smaller range, meaning more stock and permanent availability.

Those businesses that listen to their customers will succeed. Balistix is such a manufacturer. Passion is the difference between having a job or having a career; the Powder Keg aligns with businesses passionate about what they do. The evening closed with a small bite and chat under the open skies, not quite the bosveld but not bad for 500m off the N1 (Gordon off-ramp).  Balistix team, you are great;  but our customers are KING.

The Powder Keg was privileged to exhibit its long range optics at the African Long Range Hunters Association’s (ALRHA) year end shoot in Parys this past Saturday (2 December 2017). Not even the rain could dampen the enthusiasm which Paul Luff described as contagious.

Many shooters sheltering from the rain in the Gazebo used the opportunity to view Kahles and Delta long range scopes on display.  Below is a shooter viewing the K624i scope. Long range and F1 shooters who choose Kahles often opt for the Kahles K10-50 x 56 scope with higher magnification and the reticle in the 2nd focal plane.

There was a lot of interest in the newly released Delta Stryker optics.  A lower cost alternative to the Kahles K series but giving nothing away in optical clarity. The model below is the 5-50 x 56 Stryker with sunshade that comes with the scope. We encourage readers to watch an independent optics review that features the Delta Strykers at 22 min into the video clip –

Herme pictured below is one of The Powder Keg distributors; he shoots F1 with the Kahles K 10-50 x 56. Herme is hugely impressed by the Delta Strykers and will be representing these scopes in a lower cost bracket.

The new Delta Strykers are available in 2 models with well chosen reticle options.  The 5-50 x 56 has the reticle in the 2nd focal plane and the 4.5-30 x 56 has the reticle in the first focal plane (preferred by tactical shooters).  Below is a shooter viewing the Delta 4.5 – 30 x 56.

The Powder Keg selected Delta and Kahles in its 2 brand strategy. Both represent the highest value price-to-performance scopes in their class, Delta in the middle and Kahles in the premium segments. Delta have a large range of scopes; the leading brand in Europe in their price category. The 34mm tube scope below retails for R19,000.

The Powder Keg is proud to represent Kahles and Delta in South Africa; a relationship that we nurture and grow with open and forthright communication.

We are grateful to have been part of the ALRHA shoot day; this is the “playground” where we learn in order to serve our customers better – THANK YOU

A life lesson I learnt coming to Slovenia was the value of good clothing.  10 years back Jeff and I (Jeff was the American Military Attache to Slovenia) were picked up by a Slovene General to go climb Triglav, the highest mountain peak in Slovenia. We were told in no uncertain terms that our cotton clothing was a NO NO.

Every picture here is a moment over a period of a decade with the exact same pair of pants. I could have added another 100 but for fear that readers would think that was my only pair of pants.

I have no doubt that we would not have made Triglav had we not changed our pants.  Our new pants were literally the difference between day and night. They say that if you have not climbed Triglav you are not a real Slovene.

Both Jeff and I were in love with the pants; stretchy, soft, strong, extreme lightweight, fast drying and warm. In one word perfect. Jeff contacted me from the USA after his return; I had to post 4 pairs to him. We spoke of exporting the pants to the USA but this opportunity was lost in the fog of a corporate lifestyle.

10 years on; all that has changed is my hair is grey and the exact same pants faded, but they are still my favorite. My first initiative for The Powder Keg in 2016 was to source these very same pants for the business. I met with the owner of the company that produced the pants, but they discontinued with this fabric from Sweden because of cost.  How wrong could the measurement of cost be?

I have worn these pants on every occasion from hunting in extreme conditions, to hiking, and simply for comfort around the house. A few years back I bought my dad a pair and this is all he ever wears. Proven by myself for over a decade was enough passion and grit to find the same specification of fabric and have the pants produced for The Powder Keg.

I bought a pair of shorts in the same material back then. In the past 10 years I have spent thousands on different pairs of short pants but still these are outright favorites. Earlier this year I wore them when visiting lakes with my daughter Demi. How dare the manufacturer stop production because the fabric was too expensive?

I clean wardrobes every 6 months but these pants have escaped all 20 clean-outs.  The pictures below are 9 years apart; the same pants.  As I am typing this I am wearing the same pants and thinking to keep as a souvenir for what is to come.  I finally tracked down the fabric supply in Sweden and we have produced prototypes with more hunting features.

Reading this you can be excused for thinking “an idiot to be passionate about a pair of pants”. Judge when you have tried them. It feels like you back 20 years in fitness compared to wearing heavier cotton pants.  Used extensively in Africa or climbing the Alps, it does not get better.  Coming to The Powder Keg soon.

I like reading blogs by Ron Spomer, mostly I agree but not always. He wrote that the best clothing for Africa was cotton clothing. His main argument is that you never hunt in the rain so clothing does not get wet and that its was customary for lodges to wash laundry and that cotton was the least susceptible to hot iron burns.  Sorry Ron, my pants have never been ironed in 10 years and I like to walk a lot on Safari. 

The sweat of a good walk and stalk is my primary need for a quick dry material. Schoeller (Swiss) have launched cotton fabric called 3 times dry. You get feel and look of cotton with the advantage of quick drying. Extremely high cost, price starts at Euro 17 a sqm of fabric; still we in evaluation for premium safari shirts.

Closing with a picture of the first prototype. The color is blue only because this was a sample for prototyping and the supplier had stock in a short length.  Your 2018 outdoors will take on a new meaning.

How much money should we be investing in a scale that measures to 0.02 of a grain, often referred to as 1 kernel of powder? I used to think very important. Typically one invests a lot of time and money in reloading because it is a fun hobby, especially when the bug to improve your groups (accuracy) bites.  Every now and then it is worthwhile to check the logic of what matters or else you will end up with drawers like this.

In reloading we never stop learning; in my instance mostly from experiences, meaning when I run into a problem I read-up on it; or when I observe stuff I think about its impact on reloading. There are millions of more qualified shooters than me who write on the subject, but I find most omit the practical side of reloading … the common sense, the stuff that matters.

Uniform velocity contributes to improved accuracy (fact). Velocity spread is a term used that quantifies the difference between the highest and the lowest velocity, and standard deviation (SD) the average difference between all shots measured. Double digit SD will show as a vertical string when shooting beyond 400 m (give or take).

There are many parts of reloading that contribute to uniform velocities such as having brass with equal case capacity (volume), equal neck tension, equal powder charge, same batch primers and powder, uniform bullets and so the list goes on. Generally the rule is consistency.

A material change in temperature has a material impact on velocity; potentially a greater influence in hunting than the other reloading factors (within reason). And here is my learning …

I loaded a batch of bullets for 3 different calibers (same day /same conditions) with meticulous effort in the various steps to have minimal velocity fluctuations.  I shot when the ambient temperature was 24 C.  All of the calibers recorded excellent velocity consistency.

I went to the range with the same loaded ammunition and repeated the test when the ambient temperature was 14 C. The velocity spread was minimal but with all 3 calibers the velocities were about 5% lower than recorded at   24 C (Labradar).

I did not embark on this test to validate the impact of velocity change due to temperature changes, but having stumbled upon the quantum of change I will perform the same test with the same bullets when the temperature is around freezing point. Unfortunately I did not keep my targets to check changes to point of impact.

This raises many questions such as bullet tuning (seating depth), ensuring your bullet leaves the barrel when the “node” / whip movement is stable for the longest period. Will the sweet spot shooting at high temperatures be the same sweet spot when shooting in the cold of winter mornings?

The rifle pictured below is a light weight 222. The gun (not me) shot 1 hole groups at 100 m with Berger 52 grains. A few months later with the same loaded ammunition the rifle would not group. We decided to change the barrel because we assumed the barrel was too thin (greater whip / node impact). Now we questioning ourselves, was the barrel faulty or was this the result of a change in velocity (temperatures) and we needed to re-find the sweet spot? A situation exacerbated in a ultra thin barrel?

Hunters should consider the material impact of temperature change on velocity and then determine how important is it for hunting ammunition to buy a scale that measures to the kernel of powder.  

My basic principles for loading hunting bullets; if we can within reason (time and cost) eliminate velocity spread then that makes sense.

  1. Use quality brass which eliminates the need for neck turning (in future parts I will explain my logic of neck turning, the pitfalls vs. benefits for the occasional re-loader),
  2. Use the same make of quality brass. I sort by weight when developing loads, although it is not an absolute determination of case capacity I consider it better than doing nothing,
  3. For new brass debur flash holes (only once); some manufacturers like Laupa discourage this step because there method of making the flash hole does not create punch burs,
  4. Remove primers with a universal decapping die and clean primer pockets,
  5. Full length size, push the shoulder back 0.001-0.002″ from the fired brass head-space measurement (I never neck size, my logic in future parts). Buy and use head-space gauges if you don’t already have,                                             
  6. Trim cases to uniform lengths. This step made quick and easy with Trimit or WFT equipment. It is quicker to trim the cases than measuring the case length, so I trim every time. I invest in a unit for each caliber, that way I know that I have case length uniformity year after year; and no set-up time needed.                        
  7. Do not mix standard primers with magnum primers. Bench-rest and long range shooters even keep to the same make and batch of primers,
  8. Case annealing is valuable but until I can purchase equipment that ensures a proper measurement of heat and timing I have chosen not to anneal (concern of doing more damage than good). The Powder Keg is tracking developments on equipment using induction where parameters can be input,
  9. Use a good scale; I have gone back to using my RCBS  auto and 10:10 beam scale for hunting ammunition; a contradiction of an earlier BLOG where I punted electronic scales that measure to 0.02 of a grain.                          
  10. Use a quality powder for consistency although in SA the choice is limited due to availability and price considerations. When you have found the sweet spot of your rifle, in my experience, it does not matter what powder you use provided you achieve the same bullet velocity,
  11. Find the powder range where the velocity change in incremental load increases varies the least (accuracy nodes)At this point I know that the velocity change is the least sensitive to a small error in powder thrown (FLAT SPOT). I prefer the “flat spot” closest to the maximum load,
  12. Tune the bullet (seating depth) at the charge determined above.  
  13. Re-check the zero of your rifle when hunting at significantly different temperature conditions than when your rifle was sighted in. If for no other reason … your own confidence.

Question the logic to become a better re-loader . I spend an inordinate amount of time in selecting products that The Powder Keg should stock and sell to ensure our customers have the best chance to buy right the first time.  I have paid a lot of school fees and don’t want the same for customers.

Proving out – I placed a few rounds in direct sunlight. After firing I could see pressure signs on the brass (primer and extractor markings) validating that the heat on the brass created additional pressure.  I load at accuracy nodes near maximums. In this instance the direct sunlight put my safe loads closer to the zone of risk.

Having great groups makes sense provided you understand the change of bullet impact in different environmental conditions and you practice in live positions vs. being a bench rest expert. If you can afford an electronic scale that does not drift then by all means buy it.

Alternatively, you can buy the Swarovski DS scope that makes all the climatic impact adjustments on your behalf. I have tried it on the range and it works well, but personally I do not like the size (40 mm tube) and for my traditional ways I do not consider it hunting. I don’t want to be fiddling with all the gadgets in the moment of a hunt; the animal will be the happiest of both of us because he will use those precious seconds.

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.

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!

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!

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.

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

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.


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.


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”.


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.


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