Friday, April 26, 2013

FEMA Institute Self-Study

Did you know that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers free classes? The Emergency Management Institute (EMI) offers emergency management training for emergency management professionals, government employees and the general public. As part of the National Preparedness Goal, their free online independent study program offers self-paced courses in nine “mission areas”:
  • Incident Management
  • Operational Planning
  • Disaster Logistics
  • Emergency Communications
  • Service to Disaster Victims
  • Continuity Programs
  • Public Disaster Communications
  • Integrated Preparedness
  • Hazard Mitigation
Class titles include:
  • Intro to Hazardous Materials
  • A Citizen’s Guide to Disaster Assistance
  • Animals in Disasters
  • Diversity Awareness
  • Orientation to FEMA Logistics
  • Multihazard Planning for Childcare
  • Household Hazardous Materials
  • Workplace Violence Awareness
  • Livestock in Disasters
There are many more interesting classes available - here’s the complete list: crslist.aspx. And did I mention they’re online, self-paced and free? There is a final exam at the end of each one, but you’ll feel more confident in your ability to handle disasters once you’ve aced the class. If you’re considering a career change, these classes can also help you move into a career as an emergency management professional.

If you’re already working as an emergency management professional, the Professional Development Series offers seven independent study courses that teach the fundamentals of emergency management.

There are a few application guidelines - you must be a U.S. citizen although there are a limited number of international seats available for each class. Also, classes fill up so you want to note the registration deadlines.

The Emergency Management Institute also offers on-site and remote classes if you’d like to attend on-campus.

For a full course and schedule list, go to EMICourses/.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Have You Considered Re-Loading Your Ammo? by ADMINISTRATOR on MARCH 21, 2012

By Scott Mayer
As ammo has gotten more and more expensive over the past few years, a lot of people have begun to consider re-loading, and well they should. Because when you buy loaded ammunition, part of what you are paying for is the bullet you shoot downrange and the powder and primer that burn, and part of that cost is also the brass case. Re-loading, or for the purpose of discussion here, “handloading,” allows you to reuse that brass case for more loaded rounds, thereby saving you money on re-buying the brass. Not all cases are brass of course. These days some cases are aluminum or steel, and these generally cannot be reloaded (That is why steel and brass cased ammo is cheaper). But almost all brass ammunition is capable of being re-loaded, and when you get right down to it, brass ammo was created to reload. Leaving brass on the ground is just plain old wasting, and these days who can afford that?
The mechanics of handloading are very simple. A cartridge has a primer at its rear, powder in the middle, and a bullet at the front. When you fire the cartridge, the primer goes off, the powder burns up, and the bullet chugs its way out of the muzzle. Handloading amounts to nothing more than putting in a new primer, new powder and a new bullet, into the fired brass case.
There are some really good beginner reloading kits on the market. The brands you should search for are Hornady, Lyman, RCBS and Redding on the high end, and Lee is generally going to be the least expensive. Before you rush out and buy one, however, understanding some of the tools and what choices you have might be a better way to start. Sometimes you buy a beginner kit then replace all of the stuff in it within a short time as you discover how more advanced tools are more convenient and more precise. A little bit of overview will help you wade through what you should expect to buy, and some of the options.

The Press

The most important thing you will have to decide is what type of reloading press you want to start with. Lee even has a no-press option called a Lee Loader, and it works, but veerryyy slowly, and most likely you will want a “single stage” reloading press at the very least.
A single stage press holds one “die,” which is the tool that you force the brass shell into in order to make it shootable again. Handloading most often involves three dies, but can be two, three, four, or even five of these dies to make the loaded shell. On a single stage press, you have to insert and adjust the die, then process one “stage” of your ammo, then take out that die, put in the next die, do a round of the same shells with that die, then do the next one, and in between there you drop the powder in and position a new bullet.
Most people start with a single stage press because it is the simplest, and down the road, as you get into more precision handloading with long range rifle rounds, many would argue that a single stage press is the most consistent, but if you are making a lot of handgun rounds, a single stage press may not be your best option. If reloading was something you could do casually while you catch up your DVR watching, spending 3 hours on 500 rounds of 9mm would be fine, but it isn’t. If you don’t want to double charge gun powder and make a bunch of mistakes, you have to focus on what you are doing while you handload, and quicker is usually better.
The next step up from single stage is what is called the “Turret” press. It has four or five die stations built into it so you can build a lot of ammo without having to swap out dies. Lyman, RCBS and Redding all make manually indexing turret presses, and Lee makes a unique turret press that has a rotating tool head, so you pull the handle one, two, three, four (including powder) times, and the press indexes the dies for you. This may sound like a no brainer with the Lee, but some people prefer the sturdiness of the big heavy options, especially when building precision long range rifle ammo.
The next step up is the “progressive” press. Generally they don’t make a beginner kit with progressive presses. You have to buy the other stuff, covered below, separately. This can be a good thing. For example, the RCBS single stage kit comes with a balance beam scale. Today this is nothing short of a doorstop and a complete waste of money. The single stage Hornady kit comes with a proper high quality electronic scale, but not the nicest one Hornady makes. Options are what makes handloading fun, not just about saving money.
With a progressive press, every pull of the handle produces a new loaded round. The press has a “shell plate” that revolves under the die and powder stations, and all the stations get filled as the plate turns itself through the loading process. Progressive presses are more money than single stage and turret presses, but the time savings can pay you back in droves.
Hornady, Dillon and RCBS are the biggest names in progressive presses, and once you start looking into the technology you will see that they are quite elaborate. The basic press requires you to feed a case and bullet by hand for every pull, but all three companies make a bullet and case feeder attachment that will do even that for you.
Lee, again, is a much less expensive option in a progressive press, but if you plan to be a handloading snob don’t bother. Lee uses aluminum and some plastic in place of steel on their press designs, and though all the Lee stuff works great, many hardcore handloaders opt for the more expensive brands. Eventually we’ll get to some actual overviews of some of these presses, but for now just Google around and you’ll find plenty to help you make an informed purchasing decision.

Why Handload?

Before moving on to the rest of the stuff you’ll need, any conversion about handloading should include a little history of what is correctly called, “precision, ” as opposed to “accuracy.” When you handload, most of the time you will end up with more precise ammunition, loaded round compared to loaded round compared to loaded round. Commercial ammunition is manufactured on automated equipment flying at thousands of rounds per hour. When you slow down and do it by hand, one at a time, or even on a progressive press at one per pull, you are generally going to produce more consistent and precise ammunition than can the factory.
As we have discussed here before, Hornady ammo has definitely pioneered genuinely precise and consistent factory ammo. Some of the testing we have done with our resident US Army Sniper Ben Becker has been truly amazing. But you will note that Hornady makes not only some of the most advanced handloading equipment, they are also the largest producer of packed bullets for handloading, and they have worked with Hodgdon Powder to bring even their exclusive “Superformance” and “LeverEvolution” brands to the handloader. Even Hornady, the pioneer in precise factory ammo, recognizes that handloading is an enormous asset to shooting sports, and if anyone knows the difference, they do.
Can you save money? Yes, you actually can. If you take just simple 9mm rounds, a box of the cheapest factory ammo you can find is amost $20 per 50 rounds these days. In comparison to handloading, assuming you have the spent brass cartridges, a box of 500 Hornady 124 grain bullets on Midsouth is $53. One thousand (1000!) primers are under $30, and a pound of Hodgdon Titegroup, enough for approximately 1500 rounds, is $15. Conservatively that is under $150 per thousand. I was unable to find 9mm even in bulk surplus crates at under $250 per thousand delivered. You definitely will save money.
Should you handload? Safety is a big deal. If you can exercise common sense and follow directions, then yes, please keep reading. If you have attention issues or think that it is ok to “half way” the safety issues of reloading, let me tell you right now that there is a whole world of difference, and a ton of hurt, between 2.7 grains and 7.2 grains of Bullseye, and both measurements fit in a .45ACP case. This is not something you want to experience. You will need to be extra careful when handloading. If you’re someone who thinks a maximum recommended load is merely a suggestion or think loading manuals have “lawyered down” data, please don’t handload.

A Brief Laundry List of Stuff You Need

  1. A manual with data – Handloading manuals are not like manuals that come with, for example, computers. Instead, handloading manuals really do have good instructions. Often they have whole chapters devoted to tools and how to set them up, cartridge components and their differences, and every step to handloading. The data sections of manuals contain the recipes you’ll follow to handload safely. Usually the data tells you everything–what brand case, what brand and size primer, what brand and type of bullet, how much of the right powder to use, and how long to make the finished cartridge. All you have to do is follow the recipe and put the parts together.
  2. A secondary data source – In 30 years of handloading I think I’ve seen only one typo in printed data published by a manufacturer. Errors are more common in magazines and online, but a secondary data source isn’t necessarily so much for double-checking as it is for knowing more about the data range for a combination of components. They can’t put every powder in the book, and you may have a powder you bought for another caliber that could be used for the one you want to load next, but for which there is no data in the manual.
    I often find that given the same combination of components, the loads in one manual are different from the loads in another manual. Data varies because even “identical” components vary and it’s all but impossible for different ballistic labs to all use the exact same lot of every component when developing data. For example, one lot of a bullet you want to use may be slightly harder than the next, so the ballistic results may differ. In all instances, I err on the side of caution and between my primary and secondary data sources consider the more conservative maximum load as my maximum. The Hodgdon website has a data generator for all of the Hodgdon, IMR and Winchester powders.
  3. Shellholders/shellplates – Shellholders and shellplates are the parts that hold the cartridge cases in the press. If your press has a single station ram, as on a single-stage press, then you need a shellholder that holds one case. On a progressive, you need a shellplate that holds a case at each station. Both holders and plates come sized for different case rims, and since many cartridges share the same rim dimensions, a single holder or plate works for many calibers. For example, a holder or plate made for the .30-’06 also works for the .308 Win., and any other case made off of those such as the .25-’06 or 7mm-08. It also works for the .45 ACP, a host of Mauser cartridges, and more.
  4. Dies – Dies are generally sold as a “set” for a given caliber, and the number of dies in a set depends on the cartridge. Bottleneck rifle cases are reloaded with as few as two dies—one that resizes the case and one that seats the bullet. Die sets for straight-walled cases typically consist of a sizing die, neck-expanding die, bullet-seating die, and sometimes a crimping die. There are other specialty dies including ones that lubricate, universally deprime, or are used for trimming, but if you’re a beginning handloader stick with a basic 2- 3- or 4-die set, and follow the set up instructions that come with the dies.
    All of the manufacturers mentioned previously use a standardized thread design, so dies are interchangeable between different makes of presses (except for some old Dillons). We will get to some specialty types of dies from Redding, Lyman, Hornady and RCBS as we go down the road with this series, but to start all you need is the basic caliber specific set. and FYI the Lee sets also come with the shellholder. All die sets for a given caliber will have generally the same function in the dies, except Lee that works an optional powder station into their expander dies.
    These are the basic function of the dies:
    Sizing dies return fired cases to near-factory dimensions. When you fire a cartridge, the brass case expands to seal the chamber. There is some spring-back once the pressure inside the chamber drops, but the case never goes back to the original dimensions. The expanded case might not fit the chamber of a different gun, might not feed reliably in any gun, and probably won’t grip a new bullet tightly in the neck, so you have to resize it. There are advanced sizing options such as neck sizing, but for now, follow the directions that come with your die to set it up to full-length resize. Full-length sizing returns the entire case to near-factory dimensions. If you load straight-walled cases, such as 9mm, it’s worth the extra few bucks to get carbide or nitride dies. Those dies are inherently “slick” inside so you won’t have to lubricate your cases when you size them (more on that later).
    Sizing dies usually also have a decapping pin that pushes out the spent primer and, depending on the cartridge you’re loading, the decapping pin may incorporate an expander ball that changes the dimension of the case neck from the inside so it properly grips a new bullet.
    Neck-expanding dies are used on straight-walled cases to open the case mouth slightly to help it receive the new bullet without crumpling the case when you seat the bullet. You want to set these dies so that they bell the mouth just enough to easily start a bullet. If you bell the mouth too much, you might have trouble getting the case to go into the bullet-seating die, and you’ll unnecessarily work the case mouth. Brass work-hardens, meaning the more you bend it the more brittle it becomes. If you over-work the case mouth, the case can split. I’ve even seen over-worked but loaded cases split while in storage.
    As its name implies, the bullet-seating die seats the bullet. Inside the die is a stem that you thread in or out to adjust how deeply a bullet seats. Bullet seating depth is something you can experiment with as an advanced handloader, but for now, seat bullets so that the finished cartridge is the overall length specified in the loading data you’re using, or so the case mouth is just below the top of the bullet’s crimping groove or cannelure if it has one. Don’t go deeper as that can cause increased chamber pressure and depending on the cartridge, could increase pressure to dangerous levels. By seating to just below the top of the crimping groove, the crimp rolls neatly into the groove.
    Many seating dies are also adjustable to put a little roll crimp on the case mouth. The instructions that come with your die will say whether or not it has that feature and how to adjust it. Light-recoiling cartridges fired in bolt-action rifles generally don’t need much, if any, crimp because there’s nothing to push the bullet deeper into the case, and recoil isn’t heavy enough to pull bullets out or smash them against the inside of the magazine. Cartridges destined for tubular magazines need crimps so the magazine spring doesn’t push the bullets deeper into the cases. Revolver loads need crimps so the bullets don’t telescope out of their cases under recoil. Auto pistol cartridges should be crimped, preferably with a taper crimp. By design, many auto pistol cartridges are supposed to headspace via the case mouth against the front of the chamber and a taper crimp makes that more positive. As a practical matter, though, these auto pistol cartridges are more likely headspacing on the rim against the extractor so the crimp wouldn’t matter. Regardless, for whatever reason I’ve found that taper crimped cases cycle more reliably through semi-autos than rolled crimped. Don’t ask me why.
  5. Case neck brush – I overlooked this tool for many years, and then I got a decapping pin with expander ball stuck in a .30-’06 case. A case neck brush loosens any burnt on carbon from inside the case neck, and if you put a little case lube on the brush, it makes it easier for the expander ball to pass through the neck of the case. It’s amazing how big a difference this little step makes on the effort it takes to operate your press. You can buy a special brush to use inside of case necks, but I use a nylon bore brush of the same caliber as the case.
  6. Case lubricant – Unless you’re using a carbide or nitride die for straight-walled cases, you need to lubricate cases for the sizing operation. If you don’t, you put added wear and tear on your die and press, and you will get a case stuck in the die. Then, when you put a little extra muscle behind the press handle to try and get the stuck case out, you’ll tear the rim off of the case and then it will be really stuck in the die.
    For basic handloading, all of the case lubes on the market will work equally well differing mainly in how they’re applied. The most common applicator is a case lube pad. You basically wet the pad with lubricant, and roll your cases across the pad just before sizing. A drawback to using a pad is that it’s easy to get too much lube on a case and when you run it into the sizing die, the lube hydraulically presses a dent into the case. Pads are also messy; your hands get covered in lube and the pad gets dirty from carbon and tumbling media. Some handloaders dispense with the pad and simply use their bare hand to apply the case lube. That’s fine if you’re batch processing on a single-stage press, but things get messy if you’re using a turret or progressive press and need to turn the turret head or add powder manually to the case. More recently spray lubes have come on the market and, pardon the pun, they’re pretty slick. I think the best way to apply spray is to stand your cases in a loading block and spray at a downward angle from two corners of the block. All of the cases get a light coating, and you’ll also get a little lube into the case necks for your expander ball. If you go the spray route, just be sure to use spray lube specifically for handloading and not something like WD-40. Sprays for handloading evaporate away and leave nothing behind that can contaminate the powder.
  7. Primer tray – Yes, it’s a tray to hold the primers—but it’s actually a functional tool. Primer trays have ridges on the inside of one side. You dump your primers onto the ridges, shake the tray gently, and the primers all jump over anvil side up. Depending on how your priming tool is loaded, you’ll either need all of your primers anvil side up, or cup side up. If you need them cup side up, simply put the lid on the primer tray and flip it over.
  8. Powder scale – When you look at your handloading data, it will indicate how many grains (not grams) of powder to use. Weighing a powder charge on a scale is the only way to insure you’re putting the right amount of powder in a case. We used to have to use balance beam scales and they worked, but it was and sometimes frustrating process. These days we have electronic and for the most part they work well. Electronic scales are like anything else electronic—sometimes they have a mind of their own—and there are reports of static electricity causing reading errors. Most scales come with reference weights, or you can simply take a bullet, weigh it, record the weight, and keep THAT bullet as a reference. It won’t be as accurate as true reference weights, but will keep you from weighing out grossly off charges.
  9. Adjustable powder measure or scoops, and a funnel– A powder measure “scoops” a consistent volume of powder from a powder reservoir and dumps it in your case. Some come with inserts for different size case mouths and some require you to use a plastic funnel. Lee sells scoops for powder and many of their die sets come with a scoop that is designed for that cartridge and a given type of powder. Other than the Lee system (their progressive press has a similar volumetric system), you will use your scale to figure out where to set your powder measure so that it drops the correct charge. Precision handloading will benefit from something called a powder trickler, to get it right to the perfect tenth of a gram, but for most bulk reloading tasks a regular adjustable powder measure and electronic scale are all you need. Make sure to tighten up the lock collars on the measure so it stays adjusted for your charge, and every 5th or so charge you should throw one into the scale pan to check, just to make sure. You can never be too careful with making sure your charge is correct. And watch the volume of powder in the measure. It can go dry or close to dry and give you empty cases or part full cases, and these “poof” rounds can be as dangerous or more dangerous than overcharges.
    These days there are automatic powder drops from Hornady and others that measure the charge and weigh it as the same time. They are of course more expensive, but they work great and make your bench look really professional as well.
  10. Loading blocks Loading blocks are simply trays with either square or circular recesses in which you stand up cartridge cases while you’re working on them. You can get by with one block, but I think you’re better off having two—especially if you’re batch processing. By using two, you can have one on each side of the tool you’re using and as you process your batch, you move the cases from one block to the other. It’s a particularly effective method to avoiding double-charging a case. If you are using a Lee turret press or any progressive press you don’t need these, but most beginner kits will come with them.
  11. Caliper – There are lots of important measurements in handloading and you will need a caliper that measures to 0.001-inch. Maybe it’s my positively electric personality, but electronic tools frequently frap out on me, so I go with a dial caliper over an electronic one. I have a friend who swears by his electronic caliper, so who knows. Measurements you’ll need to take include the overall length of the finished cartridge, which is listed in your loading data. You’ll also want to keep track of the length of your cartridge cases so you know when and how much to trim them.
  12. Case trimmer – This only applies to bottleneck rifle cases, and bottleneck pistol cases like the .357 Sig and 44-40. Shooting and then re-sizing cartridge cases causes the brass to “flow,” and they get longer. Case length needs to be kept in check, because eventually they don’t fit into your chamber anymore. The Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute publishes specifications on cartridge case and gun chamber dimensions with tolerances that ensure cartridges and guns from different manufacturers are safe and compatible. Your handloading manual will have case length information in the data section that includes the maximum case length and the trim-to length. You may or may not have to trim each time you reload a case–it all depends on how much your case stretches during firing and sizing—but you do have to trim when cases reach the maximum length or if you’re using a load that calls for a crimp.
    As an aside, if you’re loading a cartridge that needs a crimp, then cases with slightly different lengths results in cartridges with more or less crimp, depending on the length of the case. That may cost you in accuracy, but I’d be more concerned about inconsistent crimps simply failing and causing a bullet to be pushed down into the case (which can increase pressure to dangerous levels), or cause bullets to telescope out (which can cause a revolver cylinder to lock up). Another important consideration about case length is that if the case is too long, when you chamber the cartridge the mouth of the case may enter the throat of the chamber. When that happens, the case mouth can’t expand properly to release the bullet and you’ll get high pressure.
    There are several types of trimmers on the market. The simplest is the hand crank kind that will be in most beginner case prep kits. It has a clamp to hold the fired case and a set of collets to guide a rotating cutter that trims the end. There are electric versions of the same thing basically, and now there are even trimmer dies that file the top of the case when you raise it up into the die station.
    Regardless of which type of trimmer you use, five trims is about the limit you should consider before you throw the case away. By the fifth trimming, the case has likely stretched so much near the head that its integrity is questionable and you could start having cartridge case failures when you shoot. Regardless of the number of trimmings, if you notice a visible “ring” at the case head, smash the case and throw it away. That’s a sign of incipient separation. It indicates that your cases are already stretched too thin. The reason for smashing the necks is so that later on if you’re feeling really cheap, you won’t be able to use those cases again.
  13. Deburring tool – Freshly trimmed cases have very square, sharp mouths with little “burrs” of metal inside and out. If left like that, they can shave the sides of bullets as you seat them, and I’ve even had the little burrs stab into my hands. You remove those burrs with a deburring tool, which is a little suppository-looking thing with cutters on both ends. One end is pointed so the cutters go into the mouth of the case and on the other end the cutters are like little “fingers” that take care of the outside of the mouth. When you use a deburrer, you use it just enough to smooth things out; you don’t want to thin the mouth down to a knife-edge. Usually you can use a deburring tool immediately after trimming without even removing the case from the trimmer. Most beginner kits will have a hand deburring tool, and Hornady and others make electric ones. Hornady now even makes a complete case prep station we will be reviewing here soon that trims deburs and polishes for you. It is a great time to be a handloader.
  14. Bullet Puller – This is a surprisingly indispensable tool sometimes. There are always going to be times when you are reloading where you wake up and realize you were on autopilot, daydreaming. If when that happens, you find that your powder measure went dry, you have to go back through your loaded rounds and pull the bullets to figure out if they have powder in them. Busting a round in your firearm that has no powder and only a primer and bullet will usually lodge the bullet in the barrel. If you subsequently fire another round without clearing the jammed bullet, the top of the gun could get blown off, harming you and/or bystanders in the process, and at the very least you have bulged and weakened your firearm, turning it into a doorstop. Don’t be squeamish about pulling bullets if you are not 100% sure that you dumped powder. Hornady makes a “Powder Cop” die for their progressive press, and Dillon even has an alarm system, but if you aren’t using one of these and you are using a proegressive press, assume you will eventually need a bullet puller. Many beginner kits come with them now.
  15. Vibratory or Ultrasonic Cleaner – Dull and stained brass is perfectly safe to reload, but after a couple firings you will notice that it has collected a considerable amount of burnt powder deposits on the inside. Most people invest in some kind of case cleaning system when they reload regularly. There are two types, vibratory and ultrasonic. A vibratory tumbler has a big bin on the top of it that you fill with some sort of media, usually made from either ground corncobs or walnuts. You can leave hundreds of rounds of pistol brass in the tumbler overnight and in the morning it will be bright and shiny, outside, and even mostly inside. If you de-prime before you tumble, even the primer pocket will lose some of its carbon deposits.
    An ultrasonic tumbler works with water and some kind of solution that you add to the water, a subtle acid usually. They are quicker, in the several minutes range quick, but they leave you with wet brass that needs to dry. It is thought that if you de-prime before you use an ultrasonic tumbler, it will remove more carbon from the primer pocket than a vibratory will, but we are still in the middle of in-house testing on that, so stay tuned. Ultimately the choice is up to you. Millions of handloaders have used vibratory tumblers for decades, but the rage is all about ultrasonic these days. Nike vs. Reebok.
  16. Priming tool – Clearly, since you’re removing the spent primers with the sizing die, you have to replace them with new primers, but I’m calling a dedicated priming tool optional. Progressive presses prime as an operation and most single-stage and turret presses these days have priming capabilities and with practice you’ll develop the “feel” for seating a primer perfectly. On some press-mounted priming systems you’ll have to manually place each primer on the primer ram, but many presses also have a tube or tray feeder so you never have to handle a primer. I’ve read that oil from your fingers can contaminate primers, but I think that’s stretching things a bit. The one thing I will note about using your press to seat primers is realize you have a lot of leverage and it’s easy to overdo it when seating a primer. There’s a little anvil inside of each primer and the gun’s firing pin smashes the priming pellet between that anvil and the primer cup to get it to go off.
    If you look at a new primer, you’ll see that the legs of the anvil sit just above the edge of the primer cup. A properly seated primer will be just deep enough to push the legs of the anvil down even with the inside edge of the primer cup. Seat a primer too deeply, and you risk over sensitizing the pellet, possibly cracking the pellet, which can cause misfires, or setting the primer off in your press, which is always a lively occurrence. If you don’t seat the primer deep enough, the strike of the firing pin can actually seat the primer instead of set it off and you’ll get a misfire. Never seat primers high; if you do, you risk at worst a slam-fire as you’re chambering the round before the bolt is locked.
    The advantage of a dedicated priming tool is that you can de-prime your cases sitting around watching Idol on Wednesday night (Lee makes a hand press and Lyman makes a universal de-capping die), then clean your cases with no primers so the pockets get clean overnight, then use the priming tool for Idol on Thursday night. By the weekend you’ll be ready to reload (which you can ‘t do watching TV) and you have removed the trickiest part of smooth progressive reloading, which is always re-priming the cases. You simply remove the de-priming pin from your sizing die and you are good to go.

A Never Ending Quest

In my experience, the above are the mostly must-have tools to start handloading. It’s not a bare minimalist list so you can kinda-sorta get handloading, but there’s nothing extravagant or superfluous listed either. If you really get into handloading, at some point you’ll start adding more tools that are “niceties” or just make handloading faster or easier. You don’t need things like cartridge case gauges, but they do make handloading faster and more satisfying when you can simply drop a loaded cartridge into one knowing that if it fits the gauge, it will fit your chamber. You don’t need a primer pocket cleaner, but with a clean primer pocket it’s sure easier to seat primers precisely when going for the best possible accuracy. There’s an almost endless list of other tools that are nice to have for handloading, but the ones above are the ones you simply pretty much can’t do without. As time goes on with this column we’ll go over some very specific handloading tools and how to use them.
Enthusiasts use the term handloading instead of re-loading because though most of us get started re-loading, to save money on shooting, it can quickly turn into a labor of love and learning. There are so many variables that effect long range rifle accuracy that it would take a book to cover them. Over the years, ingenuity has bred some interesting products to solve problems that are thought to cause a lack of precision in handloads, and one company especially, Redding Reloading, has dedicated their entire company to the needs of the thoughtful handloader. There is also Dillon that has take the progressive reloader concept and turned it into a thousand dollar plus commercial grade machine, for consumers. Handloading can end up costing you a lot more than you initially saved on ammo. What these days that is much if any fun isn’t expensive? Handloading is fun! Testing handloads is even funner, and there are a lot of side things, (like bullet casting we have already started to cover), that bring whole new aspects to this really great hobby.
Many people think that the era of the gun nerd and voracious handloader is over, or in the process of ending. This is anything but true. The previous generation is indeed aging out of the active reloading years, but it will only be a matter of time before all of these new shooters discover what the previous generation discovered decades ago. Few hobbies are as fun and rewarding as shooting sports, and handloading brings a rich dimension to shooting that you have to experience in order to understand. Stay tuned for more articles in this column on specific choices within all of these tools above. We have a lot of ground to cover, but don’t let that stop you from going out and buying a press and getting started. Most of us are self taught when it comes to handloading, and other than getting sloppy with unsafe practices, there isn’t a lot you can do wrong.

There are two types of single-stage presses, “C” (left) and “O” (right). The “C” has more space to work in while the “O” is much stronger. Both of these are Lee presses, and the Lee philosophy is that most steel reloading presses are made for several times the load you rely on them for. Their presses are made of lighter and less expensive materials, and most people have no problems with them at all.
This is a Lyman T-Mag turret press. Redding and RCBS also make turret models, which still require a separate pull for every stage of the reloading process. For rifle cases that have to be trimmed, progressive presses aren’t practical and there is little disadvantage to a turret press, but if you are going to re-load a lot of straight wall handgun brass, you should go progressive if you are not going to start with a single stage. The Hornady Lock & Load single stage has little disadvantage to turret presses because the dies can be twisted in and out and left adjusted correctly.
A shellholder is the part that actually holds the case in a press that has a single-station ram.
Progressive presses are the most expensive, complicated, and tedious type of press to get up and running, but once you do, you can turn out hundreds of finished cartridges per hour. This is a Dillon 650, probably the most advanced presses on the market, and most of its bells and whistles are attached to the tune of hundreds of extra dollars over the base price of the press kit.
A shellplate is different from a shellholder. A shellplate holds many cases at once so several different die stations can be used at the same time. A shell holder holds only one case.
Your primary source for handloading information should be one of the thorough manuals from a major handloading component or equipment manufacturer. Also get secondary data sources so you have more data choices, and can confirm the range of data for given components.
Handloading manuals will show you everything you need to know about case length, case type, primer size, and usually have historical or performance information on the cartridges listed.
Data is clearly spelled out in manuals. It shows you what kind of powder to use with which bullets, how much powder, and how long the finished cartridge should be (Cartridge Overall Length, or COL).
Dies are generally sold in “sets” with all of the dies necessary to handload a given cartridge. How many dies in a set depends on the cartridge. This is a two die rifle set from Hornady and it has the shell holder there in the case with the dies.
Sizing dies also incorporate a decapping pin the punches out the spent primer. Depending on the cartridge, the decapping pin may also have an expander ball to size the inside of the neck. If you remove your primers in advance and use a priming tool before reloading, this pin can usually be unscrewed.
You’ll need a neck brush to clean and lube inside case necks. For a neck brush, you can simply use bore brushes. The author finds that the nylon ones are cheap, effective, and last almost forever.
If using a spray lube, spray the cases from an overhead angle to get a little lube inside the necks. Use only spray lube specifically made for case sizing. This is Hornady One Shot which works fabulously.
Loading blocks hold the cartridge cases while you work on them. Having two blocks facilitates batch processing when using a single-stage press.
Whether you choose a balance beam-type or an electronic scale, it’s a good idea to have a reference weight to check the accuracy of the scale periodically. Most of the electronic scales made for reloading have at least one test weight. Most beginner kits, except notably the Hornady, come with a balance beam.
This is the scale that comes with the Hornady Lock and Load kit. The Hornady single stage also has a unique die swapping lock feature. It is probably the best of the kits.
Volumetric powder measures produce ammunition that is every bit as accurate as loads with carefully weighed out powder charges, and are a heck of a lot faster. This is also the Hornady one. It comes with a plate to mount to your bench and it also screws into a die station.
If you don’t load many cartridges, you can easily manage your case trimming needs using a simple trimmer tool with case length gauge. There are also lathe-like trimmers that are electric powered, and now there are even trim dies that have a grinder built right into the die.
After trimming, you have to chamfer and deburr the mouth of the case. Don’t sharpen the mouth to a knife-edge; just “kiss” it with the tool enough to take off the burrs.
Cases that have been loaded too many times, or that have been fired in guns with excessive headspace can experience incipient head separation indicated by a bright ring around the head of the case (left). Get rid of those cases or you may experience head separation (right) while shooting, which can be very dangerous.
A caliper is a must-have so you can load cartridges to the specified overall length and so you can keep track of case length.
Die sets for straight-wall cases include a die with a neck expander. Expand the necks just enough to let the bullet ease into the mouth. At left is a case that is sized, at center is a case that is sized and properly expanded at the mouth, at right the case is expanded too much at the mouth and will have problems later on.
If you work case mouths too much, the brass will get brittle and can split (arrow). Splits may not happen when you seat the bullet; they may happen later while the loaded ammunition is in storage. You can prevent this by annealing cases, which we’ll get to hopefully.
A primer tray is more than just a tray; it’s a functional tool that turns primers all over to the same side.
Anvils on new primers stick up just a little higher than the primer cup. Properly seating primers will push the legs of the anvil level with the inside lip of the primer cup.

100 Round AR-15 C-Mag Copy from KCI Korea – Gear Review by GUNSAMERICA ACTUAL on APRIL 18, 2013

This was our second KCI magazine tested with a full 100 round compliment of Fiocchi .223. As you can see, except for a minor pause for adjusting hearing protection, the mag ran perfectly, as had the first one. At around a buck around for .223 for the foreseeable future we don’t do a lot of these tests, but it was worth a couple hundred bucks to see if these mags actually work. This summer we hope to use them for 3-Gun matches and prairie dogs.
This is surprisingly not a Beta C-Mag. It is a Korean copy being imported by the Sportsman’s Guide. We ordered two thinking that they’d get a good beating but in testing each with a full 100 rounds they fed flawlessly and were easy to load.
Each kit comes with the magazine, fully assembled, and a nice poly-canvas case with a waterproof cover. The loading tool and some powdered lubricant is also included. The directions are in easy to read English with great color pictures of the magazine.
The loader slips over the lips of the magazine and holds five rounds at a time.
Squash the five rounds in, then load it up again. The pressure was about the same from the first 5 to the last, not difficult at all.
Thumb loading the magazine is extremely difficult after half a dozen or so rounds. Plus the lips bend out. Just don’t lose the loading tool, which is held in the black case as well.
The manual speaks of a “speed loader” for military 10 round stripper clips, but we haven’t seen one available. Beta makes one for their mags and it might fit this. The five round loader definately is not made for stripper clips.
The magazine has a good deal of powdered lubricant in it, enough to noticeably get on the ammo and the dust cover. It is probably a good idea to keep it well lubricated.
Why would Sportsman’s Guide sell these for $179 at the top of the scarcity when they could get two to four times that? Probably all these crap offers you get with an order from them. They just want you to see how amazing their gay forest king fleece jacket would look on you.
These mags are great for 3-Gun and prairie dogs. Because they are about the height of a 20 round military mag they work great with bipods like this Atlas from US Tactical Supply.
Everything about this magazine screams quality. It is made in Korea, but so are a lot of Epiphone Guitars and a whole bunch of other high end brand names.
The black case has these military clips on the back for Molle gear or a thick web belt.
If you Google around for KCI magazines you will see that they make straight mags too, and others besides Sportsman’s Guide do carry them, but they may not be in stock. Most of the prices around are back down to the normal $179-$199, (no buyers club required), but some discussion board posts have members claiming that they have seen them at gun shows for $130.

KCI Korea 100 Round “C-Mag” Copy
Check out the real Beta C-Mag for .556/7.62/9mm Glock:
It was a huge surprise when, on March 1st, right at the top of the high cap mag crisis, I got an email from the Sportsman’s Guide for “100 Round AR-15 Magazines.” Excuse me? What do you live in a cave? Who isn’t sold out on any and all AR-15 mags for six months at this point? But sure enough, the sale was real, and while people were still buying 30 round P-Mags on the auction sites for almost 100 bucks each, I got two of what appear to be exact copies of the Beta C-Mag for $179 each (after I joined their stupid club, otherwise they are $199). Initially I thought that it was kind of a dumb move. They were probably a cheap Chinese copy and probably didn’t work well, but since I could write about them for you guys, and “the company” could pay for them, I figured I’d give them a try. Bad reviews are as well received as positive reviews here, and if they were anything like the other after high cap mags I have bought at gun shows over the years, they would end up in the garbage after my scathing review.
Turns out that the magazines are in fact copies of C-Mag, but they are from Korea, not China. Each came with a full color manual, well written in English, as well as a carry case, a magazine loader, and some powdered lubricant, just like the C-Mags do. It did take Sportsman’s Guide several weeks to get me the order, but I just ordered four more yesterday (before you guys clean them out) and they are still $179 for Buyers Club members. In very limited tests (one full mag each, at full-auto speed), they worked perfectly, and they are nearly indistinguishable from the “real thing.” We would all love to “buy American,” but the original C-Mag from Beta is back ordered at best, and it is about $100 more. At today’s ammo prices, a hundred bucks is just about one magazine’s worth of bullets, but a hundred bucks is still a hundred bucks, or er, at least it still says a hundred bucks on it.
If you haven’t encountered a Beta C-Mag in your travels yet, the C-Mag is the one with the two roller cans on the sides of the receiver. As you load the magazine, each side feeds into its respective can, and it indeed holds 100 rounds. I had assumed that C-Mags were still covered by a patent, but it appears that the patent was approved in 1987. Add 17 years to that and you get 2004 (patents are good for 17 years), coincidentally the same year that the Federal high cap magazine ban expired. Right after the ban went into effect C-Mags were going for big bucks, but even before the ban they were $250, back when .223 was about 15 cents a round. That made them too expensive right out of the gate. These days .223 is floating at almost a buck a round so the current $274 price tag is much more reasonable, if you figure total cost of your shooting. Originally the government tested these mags and found them unreliable, but a subsequent test,apparently in 2008found that whatever issues they had were fixed, and that they are now incredibly reliable. We have not yet tested a “real” C-Mag, but since they also come in 9mm and 7.62, we will definitely be trying one out soon.
As for this Korean copy magazine, first let me say that no, Sportsman’s Guide is not paying us for this article. Neither have they ever been an advertiser here, and no contract is imminent. I say this because there is nothing bad that we could say about these magazines except that are a stolen design from an American company being made in Korea. We bought these mags figuring that we would beat them up and lay their bodies out for your viewing, but there is nothing bad say. Gushing about them may sound silly, but we ran a full magazine of Fiocchi .223 through each of our two test subjects using a Colt 6920 and a SlideFire stockand the brass came out like a garden hose to the last round (see the video). Both mags rocked every last round without a hitch, and they physically feel very sturdy and sound. My guess is that they are indistinguishable from the Beta mags. If you Google “KCI 100 round” you will find other retailers of the same mag for about the same price, or a little more, but most are out of stock.
The manual comes with full instructions on how to disassemble and clean the magazine completely, and it even gives you tips on how to deal with various kinds of contaminants. Since we are not planning to assault a lard factory, nor a terrorist cell entrenched in a desert hideaway, I found no reason to experiment with disassembly, so you are on your own with that one. These mags are perfect for 3-Gun where you might be prone for some shots, because they stick down from the rifle only about the length of a 20 rounder. We are going to use this for prairie dog hunting too. The poly-canvas case has a waterproof lining in the top of it, and it has military clips that will attach to Molle gear or your regular belt. The 5 round magazine loader works perfectly and all 100 rounds load up quickly with about the same amount of force for each rack. Loaded full the mag weighs just under 5 lbs. Don’t lose that loader though. It’s a thumb buster after about 10 rounds. The directions mention a special speed loader for 10 round stripper clips but we have not been able to find one outside of the Beta loader that you can get with the actual Beta C-Mags, but which will probably also work on these.
All in all, whether to buy a Korean copy of a solid, American designed product is really up to you. Say what you want about Sportsman’s Guide, but it would be crazy not to give you guys a heads up about what a crazy great deal these mags appear to be. It isn’t a “too good to be true,” but more like a “just good enough to possibly be true.” We didn’t run the mags over thousands of rounds or bang them on rocks or jump up and down on them screaming “why aren’t you made in the USA?” but my guess is that neither will you. Beta got kind of screwed by losing 10 years of their patent to the national high cap magazine ban, but what can you do? These mags are a fantastic buy.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Finding Water with None in Sight

Dear Readers,
This is a guest post by Jason E. Hill about finding water. If you are interested in more information from him, he can be reached at No Jokes Survival.
Please enjoy!
APN State Blog Editor
The Daily Prepper News
You’re out hiking when you come across a neat looking trail. You follow it for a while, taking pictures, when you realize the trail is gone and you do not know where you are. It is getting hot outside and you are really thirsty. Your short hike has now turned into a survival situation. This scenario plays out frequently in National Parks and trails all over the country.
There are numerous ways to find and collect water in a survival situation. When in survival mode, you want to do as little as possible to preserve fluids and energy. Transpiration is a very easy method which requires minimal materials and minimal effort.
What is Transpiration? Transpiration, in generic terms, is when plants ‘sweat’ the moisture inside them. TheFinding water with no water in sight.amount of water shed will depend on heat, humidity, sunlight and the amount of water inside the plant. The way that we can harness is this wonderful and natural occurrence is with the use of a plastic bag…and the rays of that burning mass of gas called the ‘Sun’. Here are the steps:
  1. Find a tree or bush with as many green leaves possible. Avoid plants like poison oak, etc
  2. Use a plastic bag you find or one you brought with you, because your prepared, and place it around a big bunch of leaves.
  3. Bundle up the open end of the bag against the main branch and tie off with rope, shoestring or whatever you have available.
  4. If the bag is not naturally hanging low, tie a string to the branch and tie it to something low to the ground. This will allow the water collecting to pool in a corner of the bag.
  5. Allow the bag to be exposed to as much sunlight as possible. This will heat up the plastic bag, the plants will ‘sweat’, and the water will condense on the inside of the bag and eventually drip and collect in the corner.
  6. Enjoy clean fresh drinkable water that needs no filtration or purification!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Disaster Survival Lists, Guides and Tips

Home Safety & Survival Tips:
  • Get an Emergency Weather Radio and make sure you know how to use it. Listen to your radio during an emergency for any further instructions, officials may call for evacuation in specific areas.
  • Be ready to take care of yourself with your ownWater Storage, Emergency Food, & Survival Supplies that you have prepared and stored. Don’t expect the government or anyone else to be available for a rescue, you are responsible for your own personal well-being.
  • You may not want to think of adding this option to your survival lists... but it is important to consider Self Defense Products to protect yourself from the looting, unruliness and panic that often follows a major emergency or disaster.
  • Chemical or airborne hazards require a special response, this is calledShelter-In-PlaceHere is a guide provided by the American Red Cross to help you fully prepare for that type of event.
Another very smart preparedness tip is becoming educated and prepared to take care of yourself and others around you by learning basic First Aid and CPR.
Thanks to the availability of computers, it is no longer necessary to leave your home to obtain a certificate for either of these life-saving techniques.
Here are two recommended courses that are available at a very reasonable cost and can be completed at your convenience:
  1. First Aid Skills Certification - Expert Rating Online First Aid Certifications.
  2. CPR Skills Certification - Expert Rating Online CPR Certifications.

Evacuation Tips For Your Survival Lists:

  • If your plan calls for an evacuation, get out early. Don’t wait until gasoline is in short supply and the highways are clogged.
  • Always have a backup travel plan, with various routes to and from home, work, school, etc.
  • Plan ahead with friends or family to stay in a distant city that is unlikely to be affected by the same disaster.
  • Plan a meeting place you have identified in advance with each member of the family, certain buildings around the city are set up as shelters, but if at all possible identify your own "safe house", so you won't be trying to beat thousands of others into a shelter.
  • Each member of the family should have their own Grab-bag. The purpose is to be able to grab-it-and-go, thus avoid running around the house packing it during an emergency. 1-3 days of emergency supplies should be in the bag. Suggested survival list items for the bag are included in the printableAll-Things-Emergency-Prepared 72 Hr Emergency Check List, if you would like to build a Grab-bag yourself.
  • Have a plan ready for your pet survival lists, your Dog and Cat Emergency Evacuation Kits, a pre-arranged place to stay with your pets (motel or hotel), or a place for your pets to stay if they cannot travel with you.
  • Keep Some Cash Available. During blackouts or power outages, cash registers, ATM's and other things that we use to get cash or make purchases, will not be available. You will be unable to swipe credit cards or access ATM's. Having cash readily available will allow you to make critical purchases that you need.
Berkey Filters
Emergency Water Tips:
Drinking Water Storage:
  • Fill all available containers, pots and pans with water.
  • Keep safe drinking water methods on hand, such as:
    filtering and disinfecting.
Emergency preparedness includes safe drinking water. The AquaPod Safe Emergency Drinking Water Storage Kit fits in your bathtub. The KIT lets you store 65 gallons of water, a 14 day supply for a family of 4 - Use it when a flood or hurricane is predicted that could interrupt a safe water supply.
General Use Water Storage:
(Do not use the following options for drinking, water can be used to flush toilets, wash your hands, etc.)
Increase your water storage quickly with items that most people already have:
  1. When fore-warned of an event, fill your bath tub, and sinks almost to the top.
  2. Additional water is available in your water heater, pipes and toilet fill-tank (don't use the bowl).
  3. Put two or three heavy-duty plastic trash bags inside each other. Then fill the inner bag with water, you can use your trash cans to give support to the bags.
  • Preserve water by saving the water from washing your hands, clothes and dishes to flush your toilets.
Emergency Home Made Water Purification System:
*This home made system is only for an emergency situation where you have no other means of purifying the water - 
  • This is a pour-though filtering system that can be made in an emergency, it will remove many contaminants, but should only be added to your survival lists as a "last resort" for water purification.
  1. Take a five or seven gallon pail (a 55-gallon drum can also be used for a larger scale system) and drill or punch a series of small holes on the bottom.
  2. Place several layers of cloth on the bottom of the bucket, this can be anything from denim to an old table cloth.
  3. Add a thick layer of sand (preferred) or loose dirt. This will be the main filtering element, so you should add at least half of the pail's depth.
  4. Add another few layers of cloth, weighted down with a few larger rocks.
  5. Your home-made filter should be several inches below the top of the bucket.
  6. Place another bucket or other collection device under the holes you punched on the bottom.
  7. Pour collected or gathered water into the top of your new filter system. As gravity works its magic, the water will filter through the media and drip out the bottom, into your collection device. If the water is cloudy or full of sediment, simply let it drop to the bottom and draw the cleaner water off the top of your collection device with a straw or tube.