Turkey Hunting and Shotguns

                                                             Strutting Toms

I do quite a few turkey hunting seminars every spring and it’s amazing at how many new turkey hunters of all ages that are hitting the field every year. If you’re thinking about going turkey hunting and your weapon of choice is a shotgun, there are a few things you need to know and do before your first morning out.

Gauges:

First off, what gauge of shotgun are you going to use, 10, 12, 16, or 20? I have only heard stories about the 10 and 16 gauge but I do not personally have any experience with them, but the 12 and 20 gauge, I do have firsthand experience and have seen both knock a turkey down like there was no tomorrow.  There’s a lot of veteran turkey hunters who feel that the 20 gauge is a little on the light side for turkeys, but I know that under the right circumstances a 20 gauge is very deadly. Using a 20 gauge full choke with a 3 inch mag and the right load at 35 yards is very deadly, but anything much further than 35 yards your pattern will be to spread out and you may end up with a wounded bird. But with some of the new turkey loads like Hevi-Shot that has a mix of 5, 6, and 7 shot your kill distance has just increased past the 35 yard mark. My oldest son killed his first turkey when he was 10 years old at 32 yards with my old 20 gauge Mossberg with a Winchester 3 inch mag 4 shot and that bird dropped as if he was hit with a 12 gauge. I know a few older aged hunters who use a 20 gauge because of the difference in weight and the kick being less than a 12 gauge. A 20 gauge is a great shotgun for women and kids just learning or unable to handle anything bigger without problems.  The 20 gauge is starting to become a favorite for a lot of veteran turkey hunters.

   Mossburg 20 Gauge                                      

My old Hunter’s Specialties camo taped Mossberg 20 gauge

I would say without a doubt that the 12 gauge is the most popular shotgun used by turkey hunters. The great part about a 12 gauge, especially the new ones made special for turkey hunting, is their shorter length.  Many also come already dressed in camo or matt black, and have the ability to shoot three different shells, 2 ¾”, 3”, or 3 ½”. If you wanted to shoot 2 ¾” shells it would be really close to the same challenge as if you were using a 20 gauge 3”mag, but, if you have the ability to use a larger shell for turkey I would highly recommend it. When I hunt with a shotgun I shoot a Mossberg 835 Ulta Mag 12 gauge loaded with a Winchester 3” 4 shot in the chamber and then backed up in the magazine with 2 Winchester 3 ½” 4 shot. The first season I used that Mossberg I called a very nice tom in from my left and 2 hens came in from my right. Those hens went straight to the tom and I couldn’t get them to come any closer than 55 yards. Little to say he walked away with the hens and I never got the shot. So since that morning I start off with a 3 ½” 4 shot backed by two more 3 ½” 4 shot. If I would have had a 3 ½” shell in the chamber that morning that tom would have went home with me, but that’s hunting. The one disadvantage of using a 3 ½” shell is that it kicks like a mule on steroids. Now I know you don’t feel the kick when shooting at an animal but when I had to pattern that gun every time I pulled the trigger I saw stars.

Mossburg 835 Ulti Mag

The Mossberg 835 Ulta Mag in both camo and matt black with the Undertaker Sighted Choke Tube

 

Choke Tubes

 

               Any time you choose a shotgun for turkey there are two things you must make sure of. First, you need to find out if your barrel is threaded at the end so you can use different choke tubes or like my Mossberg 20 gauge the barrel has no threads and came factory made as a full choke.  My Mossberg 835 Ulta Mag has a threaded barrel so I can use different choke tubes for other types of hunting. Since my 835 was made for turkey hunting I use a full choke Undertaker Sighted Choke Tube from Hunter’s Specialties with great results. Choke tubes are designed to give you tighter patterns out to certain yardages before they start to widen from the end of the barrel. Choke tubes are made for different patterns from skeet, improved cylinder, modified, full, and extra full. Depending on which choke tube you use will depend on how far down range your pattern will stay tight before it starts to open up and become ineffective. When choosing a choke tube be very careful because there are a lot of choke tubes out there made for water fowl, so make sure what you are looking at is for turkey. This brings up the second must, patterning your shotgun.

 

Shot Size             

 

There are three recommended shot sizes to use for turkeys, 4, 5, and 6 shot. Plus now the ammunition manufactures have come out with special turkey loads that are nickel plated, copper plated, and mixed shot size. Not all shotguns are created equal; some may shoot 5 shot better than 6 shot, or 4 shot gives you a better pattern than 5 shot. During my seminars I like to tell all the new hunters to get with a couple buddy’s, buy the 3 different shot sizes made by different manufactures and go out and pattern your guns together, make a day of it. Not onld does shot size affect your pattern, different manufacturers can also produce different results. Federal, Winchester, and Hornady all make great ammunition but when I patterned my 835 the Winchester Supreme 4 shot gave me the best pattern from ten yards out to forty with a 3” and with a 3 ½” ten yards out to sixty.

 

Targets

 

When you’re getting you ammo pick up a couple packs of turkey head targets. The two I prefer the most are Bass Pro Red Head and Hunter’s Specialties. The Red Head target has the duel-color flake-off technology. What happens is whenever your shot hits the head neck the top layer of color flakes off and turns green, but if you miss the head neck it shows up white. This is great so you know from a distance what was kill shots and what is not. Hunter’s Specialties turkey target is in color and has the vitals outlined so you know exactly where and how many pellets are actual kill shots. It also has on the right side a column for you to record seven different pieces of very important information. Those seven pieces are yardage, number of hits, gauge, shot size, and ounce of load, ammo brand, and shell length.

H.S Turkey Target

As you can see there is a lot of information you can record

 

Patterning

 

               What I like to recommend when you pattern your gun is you start at 10 yards and aim right were the turkeys head and neck meet. Most turkey hunters start at 20 yards but I’ll tell you at the end of this why I say 10 and not 20. Shoot only one time and then check your target to see how many pellets are kill shots. This close you should have at least 10 to 15 pellets in the kill zone. Some hunters say 5 pellets is enough but I prefer 10 or more, I want that bird down and not going anywhere. One pellet to the brain will kill but the more the better. If your pattern looks good, put a new target up at 20 yards and repeat this same process out to 40 with a 3 inch. If you’re shooting a 3 ½ inch start at 10 yards and go out to 60. Use a new target every time. If your pattern was high or low or off right or left at 10 yards do it again with a new target to make sure you didn’t pull the shot. A friend of mine had a brand new shotgun right out of the box and it shot one foot to the right on every shot. He ended up taking it to a gunsmith and having the barrel replaced. If you’re dead on but didn’t have enough pellets in the kill zone this is when you try a different shot size or brand. This is why I said make a day of it.

               Now the reason I say 10 yards is a few years ago I called a boss tom in and I thought he was going to come out about 20 yards to my left and it would be a slam dunk, well that didn’t happen. When that bird came into view and the way I was set up he was 5 yards to my left and when I was able to shoot he was less than 10 feet from the end of my barrel. I knew what my 3 ½ would do at 10 yards but being this close I knew I had to be dead on. I put my bead right in the middle of his head and pulled the trigger. That 3 ½ inch 4 shot hit that bird so hard he did a back flip and it was over. I sat there in disbelief at what had happened. When I looked at that birds head I seen that if I would have been ½ inch to the right I would have missed completely, or ½ inch to the left I would have decapitated him. It was almost like hitting him with a slug.

               Knowing exactly where your shot is hitting at different yardages is an ethical responsibility all turkey hunters should know before they hit the fields. Just like big game hunters sight in their rifles every year, turkey hunters should pattern their shotguns every year.

Mark Campagnola

Hunt Hard and Shoot Straight

 

 

 

 

0 Comments »

Looking For Some .22 Long Rifle Ammo?? You Need To Read This!

Attention Bass Pro Shoppers! As some of you may know .22 long rifle ammo are little gold nuggets at this moment in time. If you have been looking for some ammo lately you know who has it and who doesn't. You know when their shipments come in and what the limit is on .22 long rifle. Here at the Leeds, Alabama store we are currently getting ammo on a regular basis. We DO NOT have scheduled shipment dates, it simply arrives when it arrives. (sorry for the inconvenience) You can always call us to see what we have in stock of ammo or any of our products at (205)702-7500. Please ask for the GUN COUNTER. Thanks,

Bass Pro Shops Hunting Associates

22lr

1 Comments »

Offset Your Ammo Cost: Part 3

 

     After reading parts one and two of this series, you now know what you need to get started reloading.  Additionally, you have brass that is ready to
be loaded.  Now it is time to get down to the real business of loading your own ammo.  This process is all about repetition, consistency, and efficiency.  
While I won't be able to teach you what is going to work best for you, I will be able to present the process and give you some great tips that help me be as
efficient and consistent as possible.    

                                                                                                         STEP 1:  Prime Cases (Pistol and Rifle)

    The first step to loading your rounds is seating new primers into the casing.  Most single action presses have a primer arm that you can swing out of
the way or use to seat primers. Here you can see the primer arm swinging into position to prime the casing. You can also choose a hand primer that allows you to prime cartridges away from your press.  If you are using your press, install the proper shell holder for the round that you are loading.  Insert the cartridge into the holder and pull your press handle down to raise the cartridge up.  Place a primer facing upward into the holder on the swinging primer arm on your press.  Lower the arm into the groove of the piston that your shell holder is sitting on and continue an upward stroke with your press handle.  You should feel some resistance as the primer seats into the primer pocket of your casing.  If the primer does not feel like it is feeding into the case, don't force it.  Lower your press arm and check that you have the correct shell holder installed.  Raise the press arm and seat the primer.  Make sure that you have the press handle all of the way up before lowering it back down.   Inspect the cartridge to insure that the primer is flush with the rear of the case.  If it seems bulged, crooked, or smashed you will have to deprime it and put a new primer in it.  If you find a case or multiple cases that will not accept a primer, check to see if there are crimp marks around the primer pocket.  Sometimes you will run into military brass that has crimped primer pockets which need to be reamed before seating a new primer.  If you do not pick up range brass or use military brass, this will probably never come up while you are loading.  After seating primers, I like to load my cases upright into a loading tray so I can easily transition to the next step.



                                                                                                                STEP 2:  Charging Cases  (Pistol and Rifle)

    For this you will need your powder, powder measurer, scale, and primed cases in a loading tray.  You can get a traditional scale or digital, but I prefer the latter.  Additionally, it wouldn't be a bad idea to have a powder trickler and powder funnel handy as well.  You do not have to have those, but it will save you some time and help you especially if you are trying to brew up an extremely precise load.  The first thing that you should do, if you have not done so already, is open your reloading manual to the caliber you are loading.  Find the powder that you selected on the data chart and figure out how many grains of powder is recommended to load.  I always start with the low side number and usually find the most accurate load will be in the low to mid velocity range.  Do not start with the high number on the right.  Once you have a good idea of how many grains of powder you would like to load, fill your powder measurer up with powder.  Make sure that you have the proper dispensing tube screwed onto the bottom of your powder measurer for the case you are loading. Here is an RCBS powder dispenser with a powder baffle (inside the clear powder tube) and micrometer upgrade installed.  Additionally, notice the green dispensing tube at the bottom that the case is up against.  There is a large and small size for the dispensers, make sure you are using the appropriate one.  You will have to unscrew the metering bolt until you are dropping close to the appropriate charge.  This is where the consistency factor really comes into play.  You are measuring the powder out by volume and not weight so you have to be very consistent at what you're doing.  In order to get any manual powder measurer to work properly, you must use the same stroke repeatedly.  I like to slowly move the arm up and tap it upwards at the top and then move it down in a smooth motion and tap it again at the bottom.  If I tap too hard or too light at either spot, I may have more or less powder in the charges, respectively.  My recommendation is to practice this until you can consistently drop within 0.2 grains of your targeted charge.  For instance, if I am loading a .223 and I want to drop 25.5 grains of powder, I would be sure that I could consistently drop between 25.3 and 25.7 grains.  It is possible to drop an exact charge every time, and with practice, you will.  For that kind of accuracy, I would recommend a micrometer upgrade for your powder measurer.  A flaky or spherical powder usually meters the most accurate for me.  Rod shaped powders shoot well but are hard to meter in your powder measurer.  This is also where a trickler will come into play.  If you are 0.10 off just trickle the extra little bit in and you are perfect.  
    To insure that my powder measurer is set up to dispense the correct weight, I weigh out every drop until I hit my target weight 3 times in a row.   That will tell you that your powder measurer is set precisely and you are being consistent in your motions.  I will then only weigh about every 7-10 loads after that to make sure that they are coming out consistent.  If you are loading a competition or hunting load I would recommend weighing every powder charge before funneling it to the casing.  If you are loading range or general purpose ammo your audit every 7-10 loads should keep you consistent enough.  If anything feels funny or you are unsure if you double charged a load, dump it out and do it again.  Double charges are not very common because most powders
have enough volume to overflow a case on a double charge, but it should be considered.  It is more likely that this will happen accidently in a pistol rather than a rifle load.  As mentioned earlier, I like to keep my loads within 0.2 more or less than my target weight.  You will not see much change in accuracy holding those tolerances.  Make sure that you keep your brass layed out neatly and add your charged loads to the loading tray.Lay your cases out in a loading tray once they are charged with powder.  The loading tray will keep them upright and unable to spill the powder you just measured into them.  Once you get into a flow with this and gain some confidence in your style and powder measurer, this step will be easy, accurate, and efficient.  
      Automatic powder measurers are available from most of the major reloading manufacturers.  The advantage of using these is every powder charge that you load is measured out to an exact weight.  This makes automatic powder measurers useful for competition shooters and hunters who look for an exact charge in each load.  Furthermore, they require no extra skill to use.  You load your powder into the measurer, set the digital display to dispense the amount you want to use, press a button and it drops your powder into a small dish on a scale displaying the exact weight.  You then put a funnel over your brass and pour the powder into the casing.  There are a couple of disadvantages to using these.  The first and most important to me is time.  This process takes
considerably longer to execute than a simple volumetric manual powder measurer.  The second is the price of these units are about 3-5 times as much as a manual measurer.  If you are specializing in large or small rifle loads for long range shooting, this would be a worthy investment.  For short range hunting and target loads, I would consider the manual powder dispenser.


                                                                                                                             STEP 3:  Seating (Rifle)


    The first two steps of this process are identical for rifles and pistols.  Step 3 is slightly different between the two but most of the same practices are employed for either one.  This step is also a spot where you can test around at different C.O.L.'s(Case Overall Lengths) to try to achieve greater accuracy.  With that being said, the first thing that I would instruct you to do is open your reloading manual and see what the recommended C.O.L. is for your round.  You do not want to vary too much from that setting, seating the bullet too deep will probably over pressure your round and could cause damage.  Seating the bullet too shallow could cause numerous problems including an over pressured round and an action not closing completely. 
    Semi-automatic guns like an AR-15 have another limiting factor in the C.O.L.  That is the clip.  The maximum C.O.L. for any .223 or 5.56 round to be shot out of
an AR-15 is 2.260."  I'm not saying that there is no magazine on the market that won't go out to 2.265" or 2.270," but in most cases you want to shoot for
<2.260" as your maximum case length to shoot out of an AR-15.  In order to do this, you must have your seating die set up correctly.  An example of a seating
die can be seen at the right. Make slight adjustments to your seating die after you measure to see how far away from your targeted C.O.L. you are. Place an empty cartridge in the shell holder and pull the press handle all of the way down.  Your cartridge should now be as high up in the press as it will go.  Unscrew the seating bolt on top of your die several turns and begin threading the die into the press.  Continue to screw the die in until it stops on your case.  Unscrew your die one full turn and tighten the locking ring on the threads of your die.  Tighten the die back up to your press and it is now properly set up but you still have to adjust your bullet depth.  Place a bullet into the mouth of your casing with the pointed end up.  You should be able to get the bullet to just sit on top of the case mouth.  Boat tail bullets are generally easier to set since they sit down into the throat of the case a little further.  Place the case into the shell holder on your press and slowly pull the press arm down to raise your cartridge.  You
should not feel any resistance as the case and bullet enters the seating die.  Once the press arm is all of the way down and the case it at its highest point, screw the seating bolt on the die in until you feel it pushing against the bullet.  Slightly raise the press arm and screw in the seating bolt another 1/4 turn or so.  Lower the press arm slowly again to seat the bullet.  Remove the cartridge and measure the length and see how it compares to the C.O.L. you are trying to achieve.  The length will more than likely still be too long, so continue to screw in the seating bolt using small increments.  Do not screw the entire die in further, just the bolt at the top of your die as shown in the photo.  Test often as a small adjustment will make a big change in your C.O.L.  This step requires a feel much like dropping powder does.  If you lower the press arm all of the way and then nudge it down, chances are your C.O.L.
will be shorter than if you just lower the arm with no nudge at the end.  Just like with metering powder, I like to check my work until I get about 3 in a row seated to the correct length without making adjustments.  I will then check every 7-10 cartridges for the correct C.O.L.  Very slight variations in length can be expected, but if it is more or less than 0.05" from your target length, you may have a problem and should check yourself carefully to see what is going wrong.

**NOTE:  Please check your specific die for instructions setting it up in the press as it may vary from what I have demonstrated here depending on the type of crimp it applies to the cartridge.**
Here is a bullet in a .223 before being seated, notice the cannellure on the bullet.Here is the .223 after being seated, not the cannellure position now.
    STEP 3: Seating (Pistol)

    This step is the same as seating for a rifle but you have to modify your brass slightly before you begin.  In order for your case to accept the bullet correctly, you must expand the case mouth before you start loading.  You will notice when buying dies that pistol dies generally come with three dies
while rifle usually only comes with two.  The extra die is the expanding die as seen in the picture.  The only thing that this does is slightly open the case mouth so your bullet fits nicely into the case.  To set this up, pull the arm of your press so that it is fully engaged and the shell holder is at the
highest point.  Screw the expanding die into your press until it touches the top of the shell holder.  Tighten down the lock ring on the die and secure the set screw.  Lower your shell holder back down and insert a cartridge.  Raise the case into the expander die until you feel some resistance.  Take the cartridge out to see if your case has expanded enough to comfortably accept a bullet, if not screw the top adjustment screw on the expander die in further and repeat.  Do this until you can comfortably place a bullet in the case that sits straight up and doesn't try to lay over in the case.  You will then set
up your seating die as instructed above.  The seating die will pull the walls of the case back in to the bullet to secure it in the case and set it to the depth that you have adjusted your die to.  Case expanding can be done when you are doing case preparations but I would just assume to do it before I load a fresh batch of ammo.

                            Here is a pistol bullet and case next to the expanding bolt before being expanded, notice how far the bullet stick out of the case.Here is the 9mm after being expanded.  Notice how much further the bullet sits down into the case.



                                                                                                                                    Step 4:  Enjoy

    Congratulations on successfully completing the reloading process.  You should now have uniform consistent rounds that you can shoot with confidence.  
The final step is storing your loads that won't be immediately shot.  I keep a reference book with a load number for each batch that I reload.  The reference
number will include information like the powder, powder weight, primer brand and size, bullet brand and weight, C.O.L., and anything else I deem relevant to
the load.  I will then use an old ammo box, coffee can, or hard case slotted ammo boxes to store ammo in.  Write the reference number on the storage
container so you can reference the load after you shoot it and leave feedback in your reference book based on its performance.  Keeping detailed records will
pay off big time for you whenever you revisit the bench to load more ammo up.  It also saves time in the R&D department, because it has already been done,
you just have to execute the loading process at the bench.
    Breaking the reloading process into steps is critical to comprehending what is going on without having an information overload.  I realize that this
article presents a mass of information that will be hard to process if taken in all at once.  I would tell you to start at the top, go one step at a time and
you will have a successful loading experience.  After all, you can't put powder into a case with no primer, no better than you can load a bullet into a case
without powder.  Within each of these steps you are going to find small things that will make the process go faster and smoother for you.  This might include
the layout of your loading bench or having a system in place for keeping the correct amount of ready brass available for your shooting needs.  Experience
will teach you a lot of this, and you will find that going off script is normal too.  Stuck cases, broken depriming pins, and stripped screws will all happen
to you at some point in time.  Being ready for these situations to happen comes from experience as a loader.  The security you feel from having your ammo
readily available with the stroke of a press is relieving.  Finally, you know you are getting a better hand crafted product for cheaper than something
stuffed together at a factory. 

 

Enjoy,

 

Brian Eickholtz

 

0 Comments »

What's going on this month in the hunting department? Let me Tell ya!

Welcome, Bass Pro Shoppers! Today, I'm going to share a special deal! It's a Stack-On Strong Box Computer Safe with Electronic Lock. It's on sale for $99.97 starting March 11 and ends on March 31. Come on in and get it! Regular price is $114.99. 

Features include

  • Extra-wide opening allows storage of laptop computers
  • Great for pistols and ammo
  • Easily programmable electronic lock
  • Trouble key override
  • Low battery indicator
  • Foam-padded bottom
  • Pry-resistant solid plate steel door
  • Drilled for cable lock
  • Two locking bolts
  • Concealed hinges
  • To check out this product and more, go to www.basspro.com

stack on

0 Comments »

A Simple Guide to Late Season Predator Hunting

Late season predator hunting is the perfect opportunity to get out in the field when all the other seasons are closed. If you like the outdoors, predator hunting is a good way to get out and try a new, exciting way of hunting while trying to call a coyote into shooting range.  This is also a great time to witness wildlife and to be out in the woods doing what you enjoy.

This sport does not take much for preparation. Most of your standard deer/turkey camo will work and possibly even one of your existing guns.  The gun I like to use is a Remington 700 in .223.  It is a big enough caliber to take down a coyote and the ammo is not expensive. There are other calibers you can use that will work just fine.  If you are hunting heavy cover or terrain that will make your encounters up close and personal, you might also consider a shotgun loaded with buckshot, or perhaps a coyote specific load such as Dead Coyote.

You will need some predator calls to get them to come into range.  Mouth calls would be the least expensive way to go.  The mouth calls I usually carry on me are a howler, rabbit in distress, and a mouse squeaker.  You can also purchase any of the several electronic calls on the market, which come pre-loaded with an assortment of sounds available at the touch of your finger.  Perhaps the best known name in the market is FoxPro, which is my personal preference, but there are countless others from Primos, Johnny Stewart, etc.  Not unlike any sport, you need to practice your calls before you hit the field, there are some great DVD’s to give you a head start on calling tips.

The next thing to consider is when to go.  There are certain times that are best to call these predators in.  Coyotes are most active during the early morning and towards the end of the day right around sun down until dark.  You can also hunt coyotes after dark, especially if there is snow on the ground and good moonlight present.  I prefer hunting during the daytime. 

        Now you are ready to go to the field.  I prefer hunting on colder days.  After a storm or a cold spell, the coyotes will be hungry, as they have to eat to stay warm. The places I like to hunt are usually the same places I deer hunt. You still have to play the wind, just like you would deer hunting.  When you enter a field, if possible, enter up wind. Try to find an elevated area so you can see some distance, and keep the wind to your advantage.  Coyotes will almost always circle downwind of a call before approaching, so keep the wind where they will have to circle in front of you to do so.  It is better to not to go too far in to start, as you could spook them before you even get set up. You can always move farther in. I like to give myself at least 20-30 minutes to each stand. Do not be afraid to move farther in, sometimes you have to get closer for them to come in.

       When calling make sure you start out with a lower volume the first round of calling, just in case you may have happened to set up right on top of one.  If you don’t receive any response, you can increase the volume in the following rounds. I like to call for about 2-3 minutes, and then rest for 2-3 minutes, and then start over.  Be ready as soon as you start calling, as it isn’t uncommon to have them come running immediately.  You will not call them in every time, but do not get discouraged, if you call them, they WILL come!

0 Comments »

Offset Your Ammo Cost: Part 2

     Throughout my last blog I explained the items that you would need to start loading your own ammunition for rifles and pistols.  In the next couple of weeks we will take an in depth look at how you get from empty brass to ammunition ready for the range and field.  The topic of today’s discussion will be brass preparation.  If you plan on starting out with new brass, this information will not come into play until you have shot some ammo and collected some empty casings.  If you have ever done any reloading before, then you know that brass preparation is an essential part of the loading process that demands more of your time than any other aspect of loading, especially if you are loading for rifles.  However, having brass readily available is one of the biggest cost saving aspects of loading your own ammo.

                                                                                            Here are a couple of essential tools for brass preperation: a case trimmer and tumbler.

Step 1: Tumbling Brass

    Add Turbo Charger to your media to get a high luster finish even after you've cleaned thousands of cases with your media. The first thing that I do when I get back from the range is load my tumbler up with media and throw my empty brass from the day in it.  I usually use the Lyman Corncob Case Cleaning Media, but there are plenty of options out Lyman corn cob media works great for cleaning cases.there.  The great thing about this media is it seems to last forever especially if you use the Lyman® Turbo Charger Media Reactivator periodically.  This will add luster back to your brass and it does not take as long to clean.  One trick that I always use when tumbling brass is cut up a used dryer sheet into four squares.  Drop the squares in with your media and brass and all of the dirt will stick to the dryer sheets instead of your tumbler and media.  Tumbling time will be about 2-5 hours depending on how much brass you have and the freshness of your media.  The brass should look shiny and clean when you get it out.  When you are satisfied with the brass, turn the tumbler off and sift the media into a small bucket or container and make sure that none is left inside of your casings.  I usually tumble all like brass together and try to avoid mixing brass because cases become entwined together and do not get fully cleaned when mixed.

 

Step 2: Sizing and Decapping

            Here is a sizing die for a .223.  Notice the decapping sticking out the bottom of the die.  This die sizes and decaps your cartridge all at once.Now that you have clean brass, you can begin sizing and decapping.  Both of these steps are achieved with one stroke of the press.  Refer to the picture on the left to locate your sizing die.  Read the instructions included with your die for setting it up into your press and install the appropriate shell holder onto your press. 

     For rifles, lay your brass out on a lube pad as shown in the picture and spray a light coating of case lube on them.  Roll them around a little bit and they are ready to be sized.  Also spray just a little bit of lubricant inside of your die.  ***DO NOT over lube your casings because bad things can happen.  A very light coating is all that you need.  Any more and your brass will dimple on the shoulders and could get stuck in your die***.  Place the brass into the shell holder and steadily pull the lever down until it reaches the bottom.  Steadily raise the arm of your press again.  You will feel some resistance as your brass comes out of die when the collate holding the decapping pin exits the neck of the case.  Inspect your case to ensure that the spent primer has been punched from the case.  If not, screw the decapping pin farther into your die and run the brass through again.  Also check your case for dimples or abnormalities.  If anything looks split, dimpled or incorrect, dispose the case and go to the next.  Shooters that use a bolt action gun may prefer to use a neck sizing die.  This type of die will extend the life of your brass but cannot be used in a semi automatic gun or a gun that is clip fed.  If you shoot the same cartridge out of multiple guns, you will need to keep that brass specific to each gun if you are neck sizing.Lay your brass on a lube pad to keep your area neat and clean.  I recommend a spray lube because it is easier to deal with.

     If you read the last article, I recommended buying a carbide die for pistols.  If you followed this advice, skip the case lubing for sizing your pistol cases, put them in the press and start punching primers.  If you bought a steel die for your pistol, be sure to lube your cases before running them through your die or you could end up with trouble.  As far as case lubricant goes, I prefer some type of spray lube.  It seems to be less messy and easier to use than the liquid form.  In addition, it is easy to control how much is getting onto your cases so you don’t over-lube them. 

Step 3: Case Trimming

     Adjust your caliper to the maximum case length and check each case to see if they are under that length or need to be trimmed.Now that you have your cases cleaned, sized, and decapped it is time to trim them back to their original factory length.  This step is usually not necessary when loading a straight walled cartridge.  So for pistols, this step can usually be skipped unless you are shooting a high pressure load.  Measure a few until you are comfortable that they will fall under the maximum case length shown in your reloading book.  If you are loading rifle ammunition, set your calipers at the maximum case length and lock them into place.  Measure each brass case that you have resized to make sure they are under this length.  For example, .223 has a maximum case length of 1.760” with a trim to length of 1.750”.  Ideally you want your cases to fall in this range, but you definitely do not want them to exceed the maximum case length.  Sort them between cases that exceed the maximum case length and cases that are under the maximum case length.  Each trimmer will be set up a little different so set yours up as instructed in the manual with the product.   Always remember to start out cutting a little long and make fine adjustments until you can consistently reach the length that you are targeting.Set your trimmer to with a case that you know the length of and make fine adjustments from there. For example, I will always use a case that is about 1.759” to set my initial trim to length and adjust my trimmer from there. After you trim a case use a deburring tool to deburr and dechamfer the inside and outside of the case mouth.  It only takes about a half a turn on each side to properly smooth the case mouth out.  After you get your trimmer set to trim to the right length, always check cases periodically to make sure that you’re trimming consistently.     Whenever I get through trimming cases I always like to send the brass through the tumbler again to get rid of any brass shavings or case lubricant left on my cases.  You do not have to leave them tumble for as long, a half hour or hour should suffice.  Once that is finished, sift the media from the cases and inspect the flash hole of each case to make sure that no media got caught in it.  If your flash hole is obstructed, use a tack or pin to punch out the object before continuing. 

     Once you have done these three steps, you have completed all case preparation needed to load your brass.  Always inspect your brass carefully for any major dimples, splits, or bulges.  Check the rim of your cartridge to make sure that it is intact and don’t take any chances on brass.  If it looks bad, pitch it!  Brass is usually somewhat easy to come by and a trip to the local range can get you restocked quickly.  If you pick up unknown brass or are given brass by someone, always run a magnet over it before putting it in your dies.  If it sticks to the magnet, DO NOT attempt to reload it because it is a steel casing that will damage your dies.  If you have more brass than you plan on reloading immediately, put them in a cool dry place for storage.  I prefer to vacuum seal my brass that will not be loaded promptly.  Plastic sealable bags and ammo cans work great too.  Add some silica packets to the bags or cans to insure a dry climate for your brass.  Hopefully these tips will help you on your way to loading your own ammo.  Next time we will add primers, powder, and bullets to your shiny clean brass.

-Brian Eickholtz          

0 Comments »

Offset Your Ammo Cost: Part 1

     If you are a hunter or shooter then you have probably seen an increase in the cost of keeping your guns loaded.  Ammunition prices have basically tripled over the last ten years. There are several reasons for this including high demand throughout the world for metals found in ammunition like brass, copper, and lead.  Ammunition is also an item that stays in high demand and, if you've been shopping in the last few weeks, you may be having a hard time finding exactly what you need or like to shoot with your gun.  Like with most industries, ammo is produced in batches based on what is forecasted to sell.  If more ammo is sold than anticipated and the stock runs out, it may be gone for weeks or months.  If you like to hunt or shoot waiting months for ammo to arrive is not an option.  Luckily, there is another option that will make your shooting and hunting more rewarding and cost efficient than ever: loading your own ammo.  

     Reloading is a great process to have knowledge of.  Understanding how your ammunition is loaded can be critical in making your gun shoot to its full capabilities.  In fact, a skilled loader can load bullets that will shoot much better than standard factory loads.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to learn how to do either just a little attention to detail.  The only downfall of loading your own ammo is that there is some start up expense, but this will be offset by what you save in no time.  Getting started loading your own ammo is as simple as stopping by your local Bass Pro Shops and speaking with the experts in the Hunting department.  I will provide you with a starting point and tell you what works best for me to help get you pointed in the right direction.

     There are several basic items that you will need to begin loading ammo:  a press, scale, caliper, case trimmer, case tumbler, dies, powder dispenser, and most importantly a reloading manual.  You can purchase these items separately or in one of the great kits that we offer in our stores.  Generally, I recommend people start out with a kit.  You will get most of the basic hardware you need to get started, but you will usually have to buy additional items along the way.  For example, if you are loading new brass then a case trimmer and tumbler will not be necessary because you have no case prep work to do.  However, you will want to add this to your setup down the line because having the brass is going to save you quite a bit of money as opposed to buying new brass each time.   Loading dies, which resize your case and seat bullets, are specific to each cartridge and you need a different one for each caliber you plan to load for.  If you  decide that you only want to load for .223, that will be the only die that you need.  You can purchase additional dies as necessary and the dies are universal to be accepted into any standard press.  The last and cheapest component you will need to load is a shell holder which even comes with some dies that you buy.  Finally you will need the parts for your round:  bullets, brass, powder, and primers. 

     Before buying a setup for reloading, analyze what you are loading for.  Generally you will save the most money on large or uncommon calibers.  If you are loading for an AR-15 or a semi automatic pistol that you put a lot of rounds through, you may consider a progressive press.  You will be able to load much faster but you may lose that custom accuracy that comes with loading on a single stage press.  Personally, I load my .223 and 9mm with a single stage press and I still save quite a bit of money plus I always have ammo available.  For loading straight walled pistol calibers, make sure that you buy "carbide" die sets!  This is extremely important and will save you time and money because you do not have lubricate your cases before sizing them.  I will speak more about that in the next blog, which I will walk you through the loading steps for both rifle and pistols.  I will be specifically talking about .223 and 9mm, but you can apply the information I will give you to anything that you need to load. 

     For a beginner I would check out a couple of different kits and pick the one that suits your needs.  The most cost effective way to go is the Lee Breech Lock Challenger kit for $149.99.  Another Great choice is the Hornady Lock N' Load Classic Reloading Kit for $319.99.  My favorite kit, though, is the RCBS® Rock Chucker™ Supreme Master Reloading Kit sold at Bass Pro Shops for $359.99.  It combines a great press with excellent accessories that you will need to start your loading.  All of these kits come with a press, scale, hand priming tool, and several other extras.  Now go pick you out a kit and get the proper bullets, brass, primers and powder so you will be ready to load when I post my next article showing you how to put everything together.  Refer to the all important reloading manual as to what you will need if you have questions about what powder, primer, or bullets you need!

 

-Brian Eickholtz

0 Comments »

Turkey Ammo- Which one??

Ok, you have found the perfect spot for your Spring Turkey hunt. Your mouth call practice has paid off since you have a nice Tom strutting towards your decoys. All that is left here is to pull Mr 12 gauge up and claim your trophy. But the hunt is not finished, this is where your gear can really make or breat your outing. Your choice of choke and ammunition can be the difference between going home happy or going home hungry.

   Today we have several very good choices in 12 gauge ammunition made just for Turkey hunting. What will matter here is how to match up our barrel and choke tube with the right ammunition to get the best results. Let us start with a true Turkey shotgun.

    Most devoted Turkey shotguns have a shorter barrel length that allows better swing in tight quarters such as a hub blind or other available cover. With that short barrel it is recommended that you use an “extra full choke tube”. This will allow tighter patterns at longer shooting ranges. For this type of shotgun the best choices in ammunition are Winchester, Remington, HeavyShot and Kent. These shot shells use a conventional plastic wad that spreads at the front soon after leaving the barrel. Patterns will be very good from 30 yards out to 50 yards. You will even be able to make kills farther out then 50 yards!

    So you want to hunt Turkey, you have a shotgun, but it is not a true Turkey gun. No problem, look at both ammo and chokes to get started. Install that improved cylinder choke tube and look at two other brands of ammunition. Hornady and Federal use a different wad in their shot shells. This wad does not open at all, but rather has a cone that expands when it leaves the barrel; this cone is at the base of the wad. This allows the wad to stay with the shot load longer yielding a tighter pattern. So you need not purchase a choke tube, only correct ammunition to work with your gun. If you have a Turkey gun and want to use the Federal or Hornady loads you should buy a different choke tube, improved cylinder is best.

    Now that you have matched your gun and ammunition it’s off to the range! This part is most important; always check your patterning at your expected shooting distance. This will confirm all is ready for your hunt. Now pull the trigger on that nice Tom Turkey and start warming up the oven!