I'd been getting back into shooting my No1 Mk3* 1943 Lithgow .303 in weekly comps at Malabar and, due to recent forays shooting smallbore with a new-old BSA International, my groups were tightening up nicely.
Now Karma is a harsh mistress sometimes, but more about that later. I waddled out to the range last weekend and had the usual bunch of individuals ask me to solve all their gun problems because I'm the editor of a shooting mag. Sometimes those who ask are sorely disappointed, because I ain't no Nick Harvey, despite having read his work since I was 14. Most interesting one was a guy who had a new Mossberg MVP Patrol Rifle and he couldn't get his .22 calibre jag-ed(?) cleaning rod down the bore with a patch on it. I looked at his flannelette patch and it was a about 20-percent too big for purpose. Also, his jag was one I'd never seen before. It had the same bearing surface as a normal Parker Hale-type jag but it was a series of semi-spherical humps that were a polished finish. Try as I might, I could not make my preferred 1x6cm patch grip his jag.
I grabbed his Leatherman and roughened up his shiny new jag with the file tool and it was all hunky dory after that. He had a template patch to remind him how to cut his cloth in future and I went on my way, having saved the world yet again.
On I walked to the registration table and there was a bag of 100 once-fired, boxer-primed HXP .303 brass cases on sale for $20! I grabbed the bag, found the seller and stuffed $20 in his pocket and proceeded to take a few new shooters to the butts to see what actually happens when a .30 calibre bullet hits moist soil – it's always good to impress on people that they are entering into serious territory and the safety message gets a little more reinforced.
We moved on to the fullbore range, where Sydney Rifle Club (a lovely bunch of fellas who tolerate my shooting on their second-string grade team) and introduced the newbies to the fullbore boys. One was even very interested in pursuing “knob twirling” or “belly flopping”, as my service brethren sometimes refer to the most exacting of shooting disciplines.
Back at the service range, I geared up and shot my two 10-round serials from sitting at 200 metres and, as luck and bad management would have it, I muffed my sighters and shot my whole first string into four inches – great eh – but they were sitting in the four ring, just below the bullseye. Well shooting good groups is very satisfying, but it's no good if you don't put them in the middle. C'est la vie, mon ami.
Despite the shooting disappointment, I was happy with how the rifle shot its new light 123Gn Hornady .310 diameter soft points with 46.5gns AR 2208 behind them in an HXP case. Perhaps I was being punished for wanting to shoot a piss-weak, low-kicking load. Dynamite accuracy, flat trajectory and low recoil, but the group falls apart at 300 metres with that stubby little pill losing some stability.
So I got home from the range and my darling, long-suffering wife was a way off having dinner ready. Gave her a kiss and a squeeze and then grabbed my new .303 cases and ran them through a decapping die, whacked them in my tumbler with a bit of “Gumption” bathroom paste in the media and set her tumbling. Next morning as the wife and I walked the dogs they tumbled for another couple of hours and I had some nice clean brass to prep.
Now I had been used to just loading enough for the next week's match and had fallen behind a bit in doing masses of brass for coming months' activities. So now I had 100 cases to prep and that takes time. How do I prep? Here are the steps.
Lube the outside of the now clean cases-this time I used Frog Lube, but Hornady Sizing Wax is probably superior in my mind.
Run the cases though a body die – Redding make them. Google 'em, they're good.
“ “ “ a Lee Collet Die to gently size the necks. In both previous steps, I rotate the case through about 90 degrees and size them again to eliminate runout.
Trim the cases with a Lee Case Length Gauge and cutter in a cordless drill and then deburr inside and outside necks while still on the drill.
Deburr the flash hole inside while still on the drill.
Uniform and de-crimp the primer pockets with a Lyman tool in the drill.
Scrape out some more carbon from the base of the primer pocket with a flat head screwdriver head of appropriate size.
Wash the Frog Lube and grime off the cases in a small bucket of hot water with detergent added.
Run two batches of 50 cases through the ultrasonic cleaner using two 480 second cycles with just-boiled water and a dash of Pro-Tactical Ultrasonic Case Cleaner added.
Run a rinse cycle of clean boiled water through the ultrasonic cleaner with cases and place cases upside-down on some nails driven into a small plank to dry.
Wash your hands and realise that you have a blood blister on your left little pinky due to pressure exerted from the case-trimming etc phase and curse lightly.
The cases may have been dirt-cheap but I paid a price anyway.
By the time I was finished it was time for dinner again – in amongst this I had taken my mum on a drive for a picnic for Mother's Day though, an excursion of some four hours.
Never mind, those cases will do ten reloads each and keep me going for another year. I might throw in one neck annealing session in molten lead somewhere around the sixth reload though. The good thing about case prep though is, you only do most of it once.
What a way to spend a Sunday!
Keep 'em in the bullseye - nudge nudge...