Monday, November 26, 2007

Review: StormWerkz AR-180b scope mount base


This is an unauthorized and non-endorsed review. That means I can say any
bloody thing I choose about this widget.

Ever since I bought an Armalite AR-180b, I have been fascinated by the unusual scope mount bracket. It's part of the upper receiver and comes on every rifle of this make. My understanding is the same mount was on every AR-180 as well.

It's a sorta wedge shaped affair with edges made to dovetail a mount tight to the receiver. The photos make it clearer than I can describe.

The mount itself, as supplied by StormWerkz, is very simple unit.
Pictured here, the mount has a pair of steel Weaver style rings and an
old 6x scope I had spare. I hope to mount a holographic sight on this
rail mount at a later date.

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In use the spring loaded plunger is placed against the front face of the
factory sight housing. Pushing the plunger into the base, the unit is
simple placed onto the wedge shaped dovetail and released. The plunger
pushes the base forward and tightly engages the dovetail bracket.

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My first thought was that it would never hold tight enough. My second thought was that I paid an awful lot of money for a small piece of machined aluminum.

My third thoughts..... are that it was worth it.

The mount is very firm in fit, with no tolerance at all evident. The aircraft grade aluminum is perfectly machined and the heavily spring loaded plunger is well designed and easy to use. Finish is a flat anodized black and an excellent match for the rifle.

After only a few moments on the rifle, the mount was firm enough that it took
a tap of the hand to get it to release. Practicing installation and removal a few times, I was surprised to find that scope removal takes less than a second.
Installation of the scope/rings/base assembly takes less two seconds once the motion is figured out.

No kidding...... from no optics to fully mounted optics in about two seconds.

I'll report after range testing, but my first impression is a very good one.
It would be a surprise to me if this mount does not realign perfectly
every time it's installed.

My only wish at the moment..... I would like to see a way to lock the scope
base on the rifle. Nothing fancier than a small hole in the plunger and a
tiny clevis pin would do the trick. I'll ask the maker about it, but
it's a snap of a project for a person handy with a drill press.

StormWerkz makes this mount in two lengths. The shorter one
as I purchased, and a longer one that extends the full length of the receiver.
Both are reasonably priced and shipping is free.
I can see in the future having several of these mounts with a selection
of optics. One with a traditional scope, another with a Holographic sight,
and maybe another with light amplification. As an option, this base
is a well engineered setup.

My initial impressions..... Two thumbs up, and pass the ammunition!

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Pulling down surplus for the components.... it's easy!

The Turkish Mauser I enjoy shooting in the military rifle competitions has a taste for Sierra match bullets. My wallet does not enjoy the same flavor. The 200 grain Sierra match bullets sell for just under $30 a box, and are not always available.

Clearly, at thirty to forty cents a round, practice is an issue. I’m willing to spend a little to stay competitive during the match, but without chopping that cost practice would be curtailed.

The largest cost in reloading any cartridge is the projectile, and here we are fortunate. The dedicated hand loader has an option to buying commercial bullets. Surplus military ammunition can sometimes be bought at reasonable case lot prices and then broken down for components.

In my case, I have a fair amount of Yugoslavian 8x57mm ammunition made in the 1950’s. While it’s decent in it’s own right, it is corrosive and not quite as accurate as I’d like. Costing about ten cents a round, this ammo is a prime candidate for tear down.

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My choice of tooling for this chore is the RCBS collet type bullet puller. Looking something like a loading die, it can accept various precision collets matched to projectile diameter.

Getting the correct size collet is important. While a .308” collet might work to pull .323” bullets, it will take more time and probably leave marks on the bullet. With the proper collet the works goes smoothly, reasonable quickly, and leaves the bullets virtually unmarked.

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The bullet puller is mounted into the press like any sizing die would be, except depth is not critical. It’s helpful to have the bottom of the tool well under the shell holder plate as this allows better visibility of the operation.

With the loaded subject in a shell holder on the press ram, it’s advanced into the bullet puller collet from underneath until the case mouth gently bumps the collet. The threaded rod going through the tool is then tightened enough to tightly grip the bullet. ‘How tight’ is a matter of judgment, and depends partly on whether the bullet is glued, or ‘sealed’, into the case. If it is a sealed military round, the extra step of ‘bumping’ the bullet into the case a few thousandths with a seating die can help break the seal.

Once the collet is firmly gripping the projectile, a sharp push to the press handle will usually pull the bullet easily.

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Of great importance is organization. Lay out the various items needed in a logical order. Containers for the pulled bullets, powder, and cases must be easily at hand. Also of great importance is labeling these containers. I recommend labeling the powder container, bullet box, etc before even beginning the operation. The label should have enough detail to make it clear exactly what is inside.

Once a rhythm is established it takes a very short time to make components out of loaded ammunition. The boxed ammunition pictured above was converted into it’s components in no more than ten minutes time.

Nothing will go to waste. There is load data on the Internet for surplus powder, and it can always be used at the original charge weight if it was noted. Many hand loaders like to reduce the charge by 10% or so simply for shooting comfort.

The cases can, and will, be reloaded again with other bullets and powder. In this case, they are destined to be cast bullet plinking loads.

The bullets…. there is the gold. In this case they were pulled with almost no marks at all. Just some light scratching where they were originally pressed into the case.

I’ll be running these through a vibratory polisher with white rice and dab of car polish. This will leave the bullets shinier than new.

Most surplus ammunition can be broken down for components, and the job is not difficult with the right tools. Sometimes wonderful deals can be had on old surplus ammunition of questionable viability, but which has valuable components worth more than the whole.

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The final product, after a few hours in the polisher:

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Range day... M+P 9c and friends

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A bit chilly, but still nice. The rifle range was busy with folks doing last minute damage to their hunting rifles, and I had the pistol range to myself.

Along for the ride: My colt, the M+P, and my old Taurus snubby.
With the M+P I wanted to try the cast bullet loads I mentioned in a prior post. I cast these myself and would like a decent target load to be the outcome.

The load gave six inch patterns at fifty feet, about plinking accuracy. This would be fine for short range draw and fire practice though...
The M+P 9c, as small as it is, has regularly given groups about an inch wide at fifty feet with it's favorite defensive load and Gold Dot bullets.
As usual, function was flawless with the Smith and Wesson.

For those who followed the saga of the worn magazine release catch, here is an update: After months of carry and hundred of rounds, the new catch that S+W installed now looks like this:

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There is very little noticeable wear and it is still functioning perfectly. I can hope this issue has been dealt with. I will say...... I have not had one inadvertent magazine release since S+W replaced the catch.

Previous reports and photos can be found here.


Todays fun left me with some seriously dirty pistols to clean.
Tearing down both the Colt and the M+P, the difference in design is striking.

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But.... all other differences aside, I still ended up with about a thousand filthy Q-tips and two pounds of dirty paper towels when I was done....

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Relaxing morning.... reloading

Not long ago I received some new bullet molds (written about here) and put them to good use. Now, Thanksgiving morning, all chores and duties being taken up by children of various heights and sizes, I took the time to relax by loading some 9mm.

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Just a box or two, to try out my new cast bullets. I have high hopes for these!
4.0 grains of Bullseye in old military cases with WSP primers and my own 124 grain hard cast round nose bullets.

Maybe tomorrow will be range day!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Measuring up! Trigger gauge use....


A review and commentary on
the RCBS trigger pull gauge.



Firearms enthusiasts tend to accumulate..... stuff. Big stuff, small stuff, good stuff and junk stuff. Amongst my ‘stuff’ is a tool that I’ve used for years, taking it for granted.
It’s the RCBS trigger pull gauge.


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This gadget sits quietly on one my shelves, coming out only when I question a trigger pull weight or to verify a repair/adjustment. Purchased many years ago for a specific job, it’s become a part of my standard kit.


Why measure trigger pull? Sometimes curiosity is enough of a reason, but there’s
more. Anytime a trigger is repaired or adjusted it should be checked. In the end
it’s our shooting judgment that matters most, but the ‘finger’ does not always
speak the truth. Occasionally it takes an objective measurement. That’s when this particular tool earns it’s keep.


It’s simple and inexpensive, and works on just about any firearm. The results can
be surprising at times. A trigger that ‘feels’ wonderful might actually be rather heavy. On the other hand, a horrible trigger pull might be quite light in reality, just so scratchy and rough that it feels heavy.


The gauge is simple in its use. The indicator must be moved to it’s zero position, and the tool held in one hand while it’s trigger bar is placed against the trigger.


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Align the tool so that it pulls straight to the rear as much as possible. The firearm
must be securely support either with the other hand or in a gun-vise. Pull with a slow and steady pressure rearwards on the tool, holding the handle bars between the fingers of the hand. When the trigger breaks, stop pulling! The release of the trigger pressure will allow the pointer to bounce back to zero while the indicator will remain at the break point. Since there is no charge to use the tool, go ahead and measure the same trigger multiple times till confidence builds in the results.


I find that two or three measures are enough to convince me I’ve done it properly.


In demonstration here are two Turkish Mauser model 1938 rifles. Each was treated to a session with the RCBS trigger pull gauge.


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As can be seen, there is a significant difference in the measurements. Why?
Well....... here’s how it is.......


One of these old Turkish Mausers has a Timney trigger. I wonder which one?


One of the uses I put this tool to is getting an objective reading on trigger pull after servicing a rifle. In the case of a Mauser mil-surp, and most others, there are specific points that should be well cleaned and lubricated. Doing so can completely alter the trigger feel of a rifle. That said, it will often mask the true trigger pull weight which should not be too light for safety reasons.


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For my rifles I choose one of two lubes to use on action and trigger parts. On finely machined and precision firearms I use a S+W friction block oil with PTFE lubricant. For my mil-surp rifles and other such animals I use a Moly grease. Only a tiny bit needs to be applied. As an applicator nothing more complicated than a Q-tip is required. Personally, I use an economy pack of Q-tips every month
in cleaning and servicing my collection.


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The Turkish Mauser pictured above, still fitted with it’s original trigger, was treated to a dose of moly grease. While it certainly felt far better in action, how did the grease change the actual trigger pull weight? Not the least bit! A post service measurement returned the exact same result as the initial measurement. This illustrates why a trigger pull gauge can reveal the objective reality of a trigger pull weight.


Midway USA sells this gauge for about $33. They also sell others as well. This might seem like a lot, but remember this tool will never wear out or go bad as long as it’s well treated. It’s simple, accurate, easy to use, and fast. Since I find it possible to make it work right every time, we must judge it to be nearly idiot proof.


My recommendation: A serious firearms hobbyist should probably have this tool.
Anyone who works on firearms, even a hobbyist, must have a trigger gauge and
the RCBS unit fills the bill nicely.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Preparing a LEE bullet mold for use


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LEE bullet molds are a good value. Made of aluminum and coming complete with handles (at least the one and two hole molds do), they cost less than a third of similar molds from Lyman or RCBS. I have eight of them at this point and every one produces decent bullets for me.

While being a good value, and working well, there is certainly room to argue their quality is not up par with Lyman, etc. That said, there is no cheaper way to get into cast bullet making than the LEE tools. They offer bottom pour pots, molds, sizing sets, and just about everything else one might require to begin casting.

From personal experience and studying under the experts at Castboolit.com, I have learned that LEE molds, while cheap, do not really come ready to use. Oh, sure, they’ll throw bullets as soon as you get them clean and hot, but to really work nicely they take a bit of work.

Lets take a look at where they can be ‘improved’ before use……….

Chief among their flaws are burrs and rough edges left over from the manufacturing process. This is as much a feature of their aluminum construction as it is the machining.
Aluminum just tends to have burrs after cutting. It seems to be the nature of the beast.

Now, just take a look at this mold…. a six hole 9mm round nose LEE:

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I chose this mold because it’s brand new and clearly shows the room we have for improvement. While it actually looks very pretty just as it comes new from the factory, a closer look reveals some issues that can cause sticking bullets and casting flaws.

See what happens when we look closer:

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Do you see the burrs and roughness? No? Try one of these on for size:

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A well lit magnifying viewer like this is a Godsend to hand loaders and bullet casters.
When details in thousandths of an inch matter, old eyes sure do appreciate a little help!
A light like this can be found in most office stores and also at Harbor Freight tools.

Using the magnifier, we can now see some real details, like these:

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These burrs need to be touched up, very gently, with small rat tail files.
A serious tinkerer should have a set of these.

Working under the lighted magnifier, just touch the raised burrs with the file till
they are reduced to the surface. Only the slightest gentle touch is required.

Many casters will also run a small sharp file on each air sipe along the edge of the
bullet hole in the mold. This serves to let the mold fill out quickly and fully while
pouring the lead.

Once the mold is dressed, it should be thoroughly cleaned. Many casters choose to use mild dish detergent and warm water to gently remove any trace of oil from the mold.
I prefer to use Q-tips and alcohol, just cleaning the mold surfaces while leaving an oil film on the steel parts of the mold.

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The mold completely clean, it must be treated before it can be used to cast bullets.
There are several ‘mold release agents’ available, and these are simply sprayed on as the directions specify. While I have heard great things about these agents, I tend to be a little more traditional (and cheap).

I smoke my molds with wooden kitchen matches. This leaves a film of carbon on the mold, which encourages the freshly cast bullets to drop free of the mold without effort.

Here’s what that looks like:

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It may look ugly, but the way the bullet falls out without fuss more than makes up
with it’s own special beauty.

That’s it…. and it’s really not hard. Doing these simple steps, and lubing the mold
handles as the directions state, will go a long way to trouble free casting sessions.

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