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The Ruger American Rifle and Crossfire II scope had too much potential and I had too many handloading components to end the assessment with factory ammo. Handloading is not a casual endeavor, at least is you have all of your digits and eyebrows and you don’t have a barrel in the corner labeled “Scrap Metal”. I figured if I had to live through this exercise in minutia, I’d just go ahead and drag you all with me.


Handloading is like Egg Shen’s description of Chinese Black Magic in the Big Trouble in Little China courtroom scene; Shen raised his hands, and a small bolt of lightning jumps between his palms, “ See? That was nothing. But that’s how it always begins. Very small”… like the little blue plastic bin.

Most of the shop brass is kept in segregating plastic bags, within large, wide mouth plastic jugs. They are categorized by cartridge type and number of times fired. For this effort, twice fired Remington brass was selected, so it had to be separated from Winchester, PMC, Hornady, and Federal, also twice fired and stowed in the same plastic bag. I don’t separate initially because it makes for too many bags with a handful of brass inside each.

Brass is checked to make sure there are no live primers; never happens, but just in case, and then all brass is run through a universal decapping die, pocket cleaned with a Dewey Crocogator and dumped into a vibratory cleaner. Then I gripe about Lyman cleaning medium because it is the only medium that gets stuck in case flash holes and adds another inspection to the process. Yes, I do have ground walnut medium, but I would have to get the ladder, climb up in the loft and grumble further.

My RCBS vibratory cleaner was replaced by a Lyman 1200 Classic, not because the RCBS unit failed, but because it had been in use since 1998 without a hitch and I wanted to try the Lyman unit out of professional curiosity. The Lyman came with a bag of treated corn cob medium, I’m cheap, the medium went into the cleaner and the rest is history of no consequence. As I noted, the granules get stuck in flash holes, but they do clean well. How long should brass remain in a vibratory cleaner is a question for the ages. Time depends on brass alloy and condition, condition of cleaning medium, the frequency of vibration, and if polish or other form of cleaner is added. I have scientifically arrived at 3 hours; brass is clean, important edges are not rounded and that is as much of that buzzing and rattling sound I can take before my head explodes.

Secondary Inspection

With the… schmutz out of the way, it is much easier to go at inspection with hammer and tong to avoid investing in less than OK brass. I try to avoid liquid brass cleaner as much of it leaches zinc out of the brass alloy and reduces it strength, but I use it a lot when I have to take pictures for an article. This brass was only subjected to the vibratory cleaner.

Magnifiers of any type that are comfortable work. A little handheld microscope works well for peering at lines that look like they may be cracks, a small bright Led flashlight will illuminate the interior of a case when shined through a flash hole. A good caliper can be used to check critical dimensions sourced from SAAMI.ORG and mainstream reloading manuals or to see if casings need to be trimmed. A paperclip turned stylus is a good tool for checking for interior case radial fractures.

Brass can be annealed for longer life and better shoulder/neck chamber seal. The 243 Winchester seems to produce neck splits after 4 or 5 cycles with stout loads and 3x that number with annealing every three uses. By that time, the case heads tend to ring like a bell and longitudinal cracks, below, begin to show in case bodies because these areas are never annealed, only neck and shoulders; something about 60,000 psi and deliberately softened brass in areas of the highest stress and greatest stretch that doesn’t play well.

Primer pockets and flash holes should be 0.095″ +/- 0.010″. The three smaller pin gauges (0.085″, 0.095″ and 0.105′ are to range checking the hole. I’ve not found brass other than Norma to be larger than 0.082″, either because of the way they were stamped or because of primer residue build up., A #44 drill mounted in a pin vice is used to make flash holes a uniform 0.086″.

All cases are full length resized to bring them to a stable length before trimming. All cases are trimmed to a uniform minimum length, 2.045″ -0.020″/+0.000″, on an RCBS powered case trimmer and clean up with an inside – outside chamfering tool. All of these steps are done as case prep and prior to seating a primer. Then CCI or Remington primers are selected depending on pocket hole size; spec leaning to small, CCI, spec leaning to large, Remington. Cases are blown out with lightly compressed dry air, primers are hand seated and I go looking for bullets.

The Four Five bullets… sounds like the name of a Tarantino movie

The section began with a 4 bullet selection and my dissertation on why anything less than a 75 grain bullet is inappropriate for the cartridge. Then I realized that opinion only reflects my bias, so I went back and inserted a 55 grain bullet into the mix and figured we’d cover them all.

Brand Type Weight
Length “ Max
Sierra BlitzKing FBPT 55 0.747 NA 2.550 Engagement
Remington AccuTip V BTPT 75 0.935 NA 2.615 Engagement
Speer Boat Tail BTSP 100 1.040 2.690 2.680* Rifling
Berger VLD Hunting HP 105 1.220 2.825 2.800* Magazine
Berger VLD Target HP 115 1.347 2.900 2.800* Magazine

Exceeds SAAMI COL Spec, clears leade
and 2.845″ Magazine maximum length.

6mm, or 0.243″ bullets range in weight from 55 grains to 115 grains; approximately 15 manufacturers combine to make approximately 96 types and weights of component bullets. The five selected bullets cover small varmint to medium size game and target shooting. Engagement = Bullet seated to minimum seating depth of one caliber. Rifling = COL set to safely clear rifling leade. Magazine = cartridge length set to clear magazine.

The 243 Winchester can surpass even the 22-250 Remington when loaded with 55 grain bullets, which makes it effective for long range prairie dog hunting.  For folks who like the 243 Winchester for varmint hunting with 55 grain bullets, the 22-250 Remington has a 259 yard point blank range compared to the 243 Winchester’s 275 yards. At 75 grains, with proper bullets, the 243 is a solid round for coyote, fox and game animals like peccary.

Indices  22-250 Remington 55 Grains 243 Winchester 55 Grains
Yards 0 100 200 300 400 500   0 100 200 300 400 500
Velocity – fps 3655 3255 2893 2557 2245 1958   3910 3492 3113 2766 2444 2145
Energy – ft.-lbs. 1631 1294 1022 798 616 468   1867 1489 1183 934 729 562
Momentum – lbs-sec 0.89 0.79 0.70 0.62 0.55 0.48   0.95 0.85 0.76 0.67 0.59 0.52
Path – in. -1.5 1.2 0.7 -4.0 -14.1 -31.1   -1.5 1.2 1.0 -2.8 -11.2 -25.4

The 100 grain Speer and 105 Berger work well on deer size game. The Speer soft point is moderate in price, it flies straight and expands well while holding together. Sierra makes a comparable bullet. The Berger is a VLD design that is a bit more slippery and can tack on a few more yards in reach. The 115 grain Berger is strictly a target bullet, but a lot of fun for recreational target shooters who likes to put in some rifle proficiency range time and for competitive shooters.

Always important to be able to close the bolt

There are four controlling influences when establishing cartridge overall length. The first is SAAMI minimum – maximum length, which, in this case is 2.540″ to 2.710″ which plays to the SAAMI 243 Winchester chamber spec. The second consideration is the amount of freebore a rifle has; where a rifle’s leade begins and how far out a bullet can be seated before its ogive contacts rifling as parking against rifling typically spikes start pressure. The third consideration is bullet – case neck engagement; is there sufficient contact between case neck and bullet shank to keep it in place with neck tension. One caliber is often cited as rifle minimum contact, although that appears to be a practice without obvious foundation. I continue to use it because it works; no bullets driven in and none pulled out. The final consideration is internal magazine length; the max length of a magazine fed cartridge.

Caliper or micrometer measurement can determine degree of bullet engagement and magazine maximum length. A simple tool like the Hornady OAL gauge is a quick and easy way to determine at what overall cartridge length a specific bullet with contact rifling leade and cause a dangerous start pressure spike with standard reloading data. All of the other measurements have been previously noted on tables, which leaves the Ruger American magazine feed length which is 2.800″, taking into consideration a 0.030″ feed assurance clearance.

Preliminary powder selection

Looking at reloading manuals and my own logged data on the 243 Winchester and this bullet selection, a good start selection would be: 55 grain H380, BL-C(2). 75 grain Superformance, Win 760. 105 and 115 grain Retumbo, Hybrid 100V. There are a few Alliant, Accurate, Norma, and Ramshot types that might be substituted based on results.

Part III, the Ruger American live fire wrap up and load data is up next.

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