Putting the squeeze on .22RF
.22 long rifle rimfire ammunition has been with us for over 130 years now and is really quite remarkable in terms of the quality of the product and varieties available. Manufacturers produce .22RF ammo for competition target shooting, small game hunting and informal target shooting or ‘plinking’. From the pinnacle Eley Tenex (10 X) at the top of the accuracy heap to the Stinger from CCI for share speed to the budget bulk brands for leisurely turning beer cans into colanders there is something for every rimfire shooter. Manufacturing tolerances and components dictate that a degree of variance exists across the broad spectrum of brands of ammunition and as such we often find that individual firearms have a distinct preference for a specific round from a certain ammo company. Case in point, my BRNO 581 semi shoots most accurately with Australian Olin Winchester Powerpoint 40gr HP which suits me fine as that rifle is a ‘rabbiter’ and Powerpoint is the best small game HP money can buy. In contrast my semi custom No.4 Rolling Block has always shot best with CCI Minimags and will not have a bar of Powerpoint. The Roller also shoots a budget brand High Impact (formerly Sterling and sold in the US as ‘Armscor’) remarkably well, misfires not withstanding. So what to do when the ammo that shoots best for you is not the nose profile you desire? Similarly, how do you contend with a tight budget restricting you to ammo that is not primo in terms of consistency?
For many years prominant shooter/blogger/writer Paco Kelly has been offering his rimfire reforming tool – the ACCU’RZR. Mr Kelly’s tool allows the user to 1) swag the projectile of a loaded rimfire cartridge into either a different nose format (RN to HP, RN to FN) or 2) uniform and/or increase projectile diameters . See the tool at www.pacotools.com/tool_discriptions The Paco tool consists of a die into which a rimfire round is inserted and a series of forming punches that alter the nose profile and diameter of the projectile. The forming punches fit into the top of die and are then gently manipulated with a soft faced mallet or such. There are two aspects of the Paco tool I don’t care for. The first is I was never able to get in touch with Mr Kelly to secure one – a number of emails went without response. The second is the entire system is based around the operator getting a ‘feel’ for how the forming is progressing as the forming punches do not have any type of stop to govern overall travel. My suspicion is from round to round it would be difficult to get very consistent results. I should stress that I have not used the tool and these thoughts are merely supposition on my part. My reservations aside the system is not without merit.
My interest in such a tool stemmed from a chance purchase of 5000 rounds of 1977 vintage military contract Eley .22RF standard velocity ammo. A case held 10,000 rounds and I split the purchase with another shooter. The price for the ammunition was very sharp and though at the time I had no particular use for it the sample box I had tested shot very well so I put the cache away with the suspicion my daughters may find a use for it long term. As all well informed small game hunters know round nose rimfire bullets, short of head shots, are not great hunting rounds and just do not put animals down. The addition of a FN metplat of at least 1/2 a caliber greatly improves performance and a HP even more so. It seemed only logical to try altering the profile of the Eley ammo the purchase of which happened to coincide with the arrival of my mini lathe. If a Paco tool was not within my grasp I’d make my own.
Early on I decided I wanted a device that featured a positive stop to limit the depth of travel of the forming punches. The obvious solution was to produce the punches with a shoulder that butted onto a half collar during the bullet swaging process after which the collar would be removed and the remaining travel of the punch would push the complete round from the forming die. The forming die was cut with a generously deep recess in the base to ensure the rim of the cartridge could not be squashed during the reforming process and a final internal diameter of 0.2248 inch that suited my rifles. Two forming punches were made, one for FN, the other for HP and the final depth of travel was a trial and error function of forming a round, analysising, moving the shoulder back a few ‘thou, repeat, until the correct amount of bullet upset was achieved. The final tool worked perfectly especially when used in conjunction with the 1/2 ton arbor press I use for making gas checks.
Whilst the reforming process when well the proof of the pudding was in the results on the range. There is nothing to be achieved by changing the profile of a rimfire projectile only to destroy accuracy. Fortunately the experiment played out very well. The following is a 50m, shot group and a HPed bullet recovered from wet phone books:
Other experimenters have reported being able to greatly improve the accuracy of budget rimfire ammo using similar devices as the Paco and ‘Jeff’ tool. Budget ammo is cheap because it is produced to less exacting specifications than match ammunition (I suspect faster and without grading). Variances in bullet diameter alone will cause larger groups on the target and the use of a reforming tool swages the soft lead bullets to exactly the same diameter thus removing at least one variable. The next step is to segregate by rim thickness or headspace but there in lies another tool and experiment. HHHMMM
DISCLAIMER: I have never had a rimfire cartridge discharge in my device. I do not believe the process of reforming using the arbor press and the generous clearance for the cartridge rim in the die ever allow this. Further, I have grave doubts that Mr Kelly would offer a commercial tool if he thought there existed a chance of litigation. That said, I make no guarauntees regarding the safety and practise of altering rimfire ammo and accept no liability for those attempting this.
Keep your powder dry. Jeff.