OK...you have in your possession a M1903, M1903A3, or M1917 Enfield rifle. If the "Rifle Gods" are smiling, you have a M1903A3 National Match with a "Star Gauge" barrel, or maybe, a match-prepped pre-'64 Model 70 Winchester "Over the Course" rifle. If you're real dammed lucky, it's a Roy F. Dunlap "Camp Perry Special." How freaking cool is that!!! Yeah, I know...I'm "Old School." But, guess what, "Old School" is really cool!!!
The title of this missive covers a distance-specific set of parameters. NRA National Championship Course - Slow Fire - Prone - 10 rounds at 500 or 600 yards in 10 minutes. Additionally, consideration will be given to NRA 1000 yard events. Some folks may be scratching their heads and thinking "1000 yards?" Yes, by golly!!! Back in the day, the .30-06 ruled the long-range competition fields. The .300 Winchester Magnum took over for the '06 and, currently, the 6.5mm-.284 Norma is "soup de jour." The fun part is seeing a grizzled veteran '06 match shooter taking it to the rest of the field with ancient history long distance loads.
The load data that follows will make the rifles listed above "sing" like an angel choir! I'm not going to repeat the information previously mentioned in Part 2 - Service Rifle. What I am going to do is provide you with the information necessary to make you blush while you shake hands with a match director that's handing you the 600 or 1000 yard trophy.
Rifle loads designed for this distance are what one would call "heavy" target loads for bolt-action rifles only. These loads will put you in good stead at the 600 yard line and any other target distances out to 1000 yards. As such, load preparation is a lot more intense than anything mentioned in Parts 1 or 2. This is the realm of the "Handloader," not the "Reloader." Folks, it's time to get really serious about your "Match" ammo!!!
Brass Prep is 94% of the Battle
Interesting sub-title but, very true. To start with, let's leave the "arsenal" brass for Service Rifle loads. Select the best match-quality brass that your wallet can stand and when purchasing this brass, select the same manufacturer and the same lot number. I cannot stress this enough! You want your long distance loads to be boringly consistent. Another key factor is to purchase more than you think you'll need. If you're looking to have 200 long distance match brass on hand (for a particular rifle), purchase 500 minimum. Why? Simple: You're going to sort this brass (even if of the same lot number) by the following prep and "culling" factors:
1) Visual Inspection - Is the brass concentric? Are there high and low spots? Are the primer pocket flash holes centered or are they off-centered? Are there serious dents or dings in the brass body? Are there any folds or cracks in the neck and shoulder areas?
2) Chamber Check - The brass that survive Step 1 above should be checked for proper headspace via the rifle chamber. If you've got a really tight tolerance match chamber, full-length resize your brass to fit the chamber with a light bolt handle resistance. If you've had to full-length resize your brass, check them for overall case length. If too long, get your case trimmer out and bring them back to spec. If trimmed, deburr the necks inside and out before proceeding.
3) Primer Pocket Uniforming - What the heck does this entail? More tools and a lot of patience. Some folks uniform primer pockets and some folks don't. Again, your choice. However, I prefer to uniform the primer pockets of my long-range brass. For years I've used a Whitetail Match-Prep tool to cut my primer pockets square and to the same depth for consistent seating. The drawback to the Whitetail is it's short and narrow handle. Frankly, I'm not getting any younger and running this tool by hand hurts after a while. Check out primer pocket uniformers from Sinclair and other bench-rest tool providers (they have larger handles). In order to speed up the process, I'd recommend an RCBS Trim Mate Case Prep Center or similar case prep tool. These tools have a primer pocket uniforming cutter station that will "cut" your time in half (or better). Utilizing a two-stage approach (Prep Center and then finish with the Whitetail tool) works like a champ.
4) Flash Hole Uniforming - Believe it or not, not all primer flash holes are created equal. Some manufacturers drill their flash holes (preferred). Others punch them as part of the brass forming process, which leaves metal burrs on the inside portion of the flash hole. These burrs, if excessive, could deflect the primer flame pattern during firing. Additionally, you may find that you have flash holes that are too small. Your flash holes should be .081" diameter and you need a light bevel on the case side of your flash hole. Old-School: Use a Number 2 long center drill bit to deburr from the inside and uniform your flash hole diameters. Another method allows for reaming flash holes with a Number 45 drill and using a "N" twist drill to bevel the flash hole. Modern Method: Utilize a flash hole uniforming tool from Lyman, RCBS or bench-rest manufacturers to both deburr the flash hole from the inside and uniform the flash hole diameter at the same time. Be advised that regardless of which method you use all of this is done by hand and not electric drill.
5) Case Segregation by Weight - Now it's time to get that fancy electronic scale out. Weigh your brass. Keep a log denoting first through last and how much each one weighed. Even if your brass is of the same manufacturer and lot number, they can vary by as much as 4 grains from lightest to heaviest. For long distance loads, sort your brass +/- 2 grains from lightest to heaviest. Any brass that falls outside of that spread can be kept and utilized for "practice" ammo. Why in the heck would we want to do this? Wide variation in case weight indicates a wide variation in internal case capacity. Wide variation in case capacity equals severe vertical shot dispersion at long distance. Not good! Once weighed and segregated, keep your brass in 100 round batches (50 round batch minimum). Doing so allows you to track the number of reloads per batch and, if the brass needs trimming or culling later, it's easier to do so.
6) Neck-Wall Concentricity - Time to get your tubing micrometer out. Don't have one? Get one and spend as much as you can afford for a good one. You'll use this tool more than you know. Concentric neck wall thickness equals same bullet pull, brass to brass, upon firing. Utilize this tool to determine neck wall thickness. If your neck wall thickness exceeds .016", invest in either an outside neck turner or inside neck reamer to bring the neck thickness into spec. RCBS and Foster-Bonanza have excellent concentricity "runout" tools that will help you determine: a) whether or not your case necks are straight and true and b) whether your bullets are seated correctly (no wobble). A "runout" of more than .0015" is unacceptable. You'll want your bullets leaving the brass and hitting your barrel rifling in a manner that is as true as possible.
7) Case Length - Usually, new brass does not exceed the maximum '06 case length of 2.494" (end-to-end). I'd rather err on the side of known length and always check them prior to loading. If too long, trim them. As you load and fire this brass, periodic checks of case length are warranted. I usually check case length after the third reloading. When cases exceed the maximum '06 length of 2.494", it's time to get your case trimmer out and bring them back into spec. Some folks trim their brass back to the "classic" trim-to length of 2.484"...not a darn thing wrong with that. I prefer to split the difference and trim mine back to 2.489"...the choice is up to you. Remember, if you trim, you must deburr the inside and outside of your case necks.
8) Deburring - When you resize and/or trim your brass, minute burrs are created both inside and outside of the neck mouth. RCBS, L. E. Wilson and others make great deburring tools. Use them. Don't skip this step! Your chamber, dies and bullet bases will thank you. Dinging a bullet base adversely affects accuracy. We won't even go into what scraping does to chambers and dies!
Whew!!! Tired yet? We aren't done. Not by a long shot!
9) Case Resizing - 99.9% of the time, standard full-length resizing dies will work fine. If your barrel chamber happens to be really snug, you might fall in to the .1% that need a small-base resizing die. Full-length is preferred for brass life but, if you have to use a small-base die, be vigilant. Keep a weathered eye out for incipient case head separation indicators (i.e., a bright line or beginning crack around the brass body circumference, just above the case head). Regardless of which die you use, make sure that your resized brass will cycle properly through the rifle action before completing the loading process. Confirmation tools, like the L.E. Wilson Case Length Headspace Gauge, can make this process a lot easier.
10) Case Lube for Full-length Resizing - Yup, I'm a bit hard-headed on this subject. There are a ton of case lubes out there. You're welcome to use what you like. Some are liquid, some paste and some use "ink stamp" type pads. However, if you use Imperial Sizing Die Wax (currently available from Redding Reloading Equipment), you'll never switch...period! No dents, no dings, no drips, no errors! It's like Brylcreem hair groom, a little dab'll do ya. Trial and error will teach you how much to apply via your fingers. Keep it off the shoulder area to prevent lubrication dents. Wipe off the excess with a clean mechanic's rag and press on.
11) Neck Sizing - Some folks will stand firm and utilize a neck sizing die for their long range brass. Not a darned thing wrong with doing so. Makes some sense, especially when one considers that most long distance shooting is a single-load proposition (i.e., not loaded into the chamber from the magazine). However, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, neck sized brass must be relegated to the particular rifle that the brass was fired in (no sharing brass between match rifles). Secondly, by the third reloading of the brass, bolt tension on closing will drastically increase. Brass can only "spring back" so far. I'd recommend full-length resizing your neck sized brass every third reloading. Eliminates the problem.
12) Neck Lube for Neck Sizing - Say what? You'll need to lube the inside of the neck to eliminate excessive expander ball pull during neck sizing. Worst case scenario, not doing so causes case stretching. Imperial Dry Neck Lube (also available from Redding Reloading Equipment), Motor Mica or Number 2 graphite work great. Use a .30 caliber neck brush to apply the dry lube to the inside of each neck before neck sizing. Your brass will thank you!
13) Seating Primers - Use a hand seating tool and not the one mounted on your press. You'll want to feel the primer seat properly and doing by hand is the only way to go. There are many hand priming tools on the market with some of the best provided by RCBS, Redding, Forster Bonanza, Sinclair, etc. Check them out and pick the one that makes sense to you. Learn to use it and don't deviate!
Time to Load - The Other 6% of the Battle
Powder Scale and Measure
Two critical tools. Keep them clean and use them religiously. Some folks will use the scale to set the measure, and then weigh every powder charge thrown. This works but can prove to be tedious very quickly. Remember, when we sorted brass above, we allowed for +/- 2 grains from lightest to heaviest. It's unnecessary to weigh each powder charge if you use a top notch powder measure and solid lever technique. Lever technique is a learned art and take lots of practice. One way to do this is to balance your scale then set the scale to your powder charge weight and throw and weigh a 100 loads worth of powder (dumping each load back into the powder bottle from whence it came). Do this exercise a couple times per week for a couple of months and you'll get the hang of it. From that point forward, when loading, you'll check-weigh every 10th powder throw to confirm setting. RCBS and Redding make fantastic scales and powder measures. Spend the money...you'll never regret it!
Bullet Seating Die
Time to choose...standard or micrometer - either one will work just fine. Remember, we're seating bullets to an overall cartridge length that will exceed your rifles magazine length (i.e., single-load only). Your sweet spot will usually be somewhere between 0.002" to 0.010" off the rifling lands. Setting your bullet depth to jam the lands is not a good idea. If the Range Master calls a cease fire and you have to clear your rifle, you may very well leave the bullet in the rifling and spill powder all over the inside of your action. Huge bummer! If nothing else, an old rule of thumb states that bullet jump to the rifling should not be greater than 1/10th of your bullet diameter for single-load, long-distance rifle loads.
In the previous articles, use of medium-fast to medium burn speed powders was very prevalent. Here however, we land in the realm of medium-slow powders. IMR4350 and H-4350 powders rule the roost with H-4831 working very well with heavy bullets. Here we go:
· 180 gr. Sierra MatchKing, 56.0 gr. of IMR4350 or H-4350, Civilian Match Brass, Winchester LR or Federal 210/210GM Primer
· 185 gr. Lapua D46 FMJBT, 54.0 gr. of IMR4350 or H-4350, Civilian Match Brass, Winchester LR or Federal 210/210GM Primer
· 190 gr. Sierra MatchKing, 53.0 gr. of IMR4350 or H-4350, Civilian Match Brass, Winchester LR or Federal 210/210GM Primer
· 200gr. Sierra MatchKing, 52.0 gr. of IMR4350 or H-4350, Civilian Match Brass, Winchester LR or Federal 210/210GM Primer
The loads above are top-notch for 500 to 600 yard shooting. The 200 grain load really shines on a bad wind/mirage day and at the 1000 yard targets. With the 1000 yard line in mind, the following loads are excellent:
· 190 gr. Sierra MatchKing, 55.0 gr. of IMR4350, Civilian Match Brass, Winchester LR or Federal 210/210GM Primer
· 200gr. Sierra MatchKing, 58.0 gr. of H-4831, Civilian Match Brass, Winchester LR or Federal 210/210GM Primer
The heavy loads will rock you with a bit of recoil but, if you're shooting jacket is padded properly and your rifle stock length is correct for you, thumbs-up and go get 'em, Tiger!!! These loads are proven performers, time and again.
Side Note - I haven't used Accurate's 4350 in the 4350 loads above but, I'll bet you that it will work like a champ too. Check their load data for appropriate powder charges.
One or more of the loads referenced above will provide consistent, reliable and supremely accurate ammunition for your match-prepped bolt-action rifle. Have fun and good shooting!
Time to make the lawyers happy.
Disclaimer: Since I have no control over variations in components, reloading tools or reloader's procedures, the individual is solely responsible for any changes in ballistics that may occur using this data. Users assume all risk, responsibility and liability whatsoever for any and all injuries (including death), losses or damages to persons or property (including consequential damages), arising from the use of any product or data. I do not assume any liability in conjunction with the use of any product or data.