House Rules

The dog is not allowed in the house.

Okay, the dog is allowed in the house, but only in certain rooms.

The dog is allowed in all rooms, but has to stay off the furniture.

The dog can get on the old furniture only.

Fine, the dog is allowed on all the furniture, but is not allowed to sleep with the humans on the bed.

Okay, the dog is allowed on the bed, but only by invitation.

The dog can sleep on the bed whenever he wants, but not under the covers.

The dog can sleep under the covers by invitation only.

The dog can sleep under the covers every night.

Humans must ask permission to sleep under the covers with the dog.

Smartphone Case Shootout

SideBySide1A cellphone is no longer just a phone. Over the years the lowly cellphone has morphed into the enormously powerful computing device we call the smartphone, and they’re everywhere. Hunters use them for GPS navigation, range finding, and even as an electronic game call. Competitive shooters use shot clock apps. Police use them to run biometrics and background checks. There are even specialized military roles for both iOS and Android based devices.

The environments in which we use them are rough and unforgiving. Smartphones themselves are rather delicate by comparison. When exposed to the elements they quickly succumb. As they became more popular people naturally began seeking out ways to protect their investment.

The Facts
Two of the largest and most popular manufacturers of cases for smartphones and tablets are LifeProof and OtterBox. Based out of Fort Collins, OtterBox has been manufacturing protective cases for smartphones since founder Curt Richardson launched the company in 1998. Founded in 2009 by Australian Gary Rayner and based out of San Diego, LifeProof is a more recent entry into the smartpone case race than OtterBox. They first released their product to market in 2011 to great fanfare, and amid protests from OtterBox.

LifeProof’s entry into the market prompted OtterBox to file a lawsuit against them that alleged that many of the design aspects infringed on their patents. That lawsuit came to an end in May of 2013 when LifeProof was aquired as a sister-company to OtterBox. The terms of the acquisition have not been made public, but each company’s products remain separate and distinct from the other.

For the purposes of our ‘shootout’ we acquired comparable cases from each company: The LifeProof fre, and the OtterBox Preserver. Testing consisted of daily use by my wife and myself for a week, after which we switched cases and continued the test for another week. This switching back and forth would hopefully eliminate any differences in our personal treatment in our phones. Following these two weeks, we subjected the phones to a drop test, a 10-minute immersion in water, and a dust test, followed by a trip to the range to see how both functioned when using our iPhones as shot timers.

Each case is rated for use up to 6.6 feet (2 meters) underwater, offers drop protection (MIL STD 810F-516) of the same distance, boasts an IP-6x rating against dust, and has a scratch-resistant screen cover.

The similarities between the two cases ends there. Close examination is not required to see that the two companies took different approaches in their case design and intended role. The OtterBox is significantly heavier and bulkier than the LifeProof case. It also provides additional protection in the form of a memory foam pad that provides a cushion behind the phone. The LifeProof has superior water resistance and functionality in a case that is both thinner and lighter than the OtterBox.

The LifeProof fre came with a water and dust-proof audio jack that allows headphones to be used while the phone remains protected from dirt and moisture. Waterproof earbuds are even available so that you can listen to your workout mix while swimming. By contrast the OtterBox requires that the o-ring sealed hatch covering the audio port remain open when using headphones.

Both cases provided adequate protection in the three tests we conducted. A 2 meter drop onto concrete can create forces in excess of 10-Gs, but we noted no visible damage to the phones and no perceptible changes in performance. The water immersion was a bit exciting, as the phones initially gave off a stream of bubbles when they were dunked. This turned out to be nothing more than various nooks and crannies in the case yielding to the water pressure: the insides of the cases were kept bone dry throughout the test.

For the dust test, not having a talcum chamber, we took the phones offroading in a Jeep TJ with the top down through the high deserts of New Mexico. Both cases performed well here also, though the OtterBox was more difficult to clean. We settled on rinsing it off with water, which did an adequate job.

LifeProof also claims their case provides protection against snow. Now, to be honest, I’m not sure how much of a difference snow would make when the phone case is already waterproof to 2-meters, but I do like to ski. In the interest of science we took the phones on a trip to Ski Apache near Ruidoso, New Mexico, and dropped them in some deep powder a couple of times. I also made some runs down the mountain using LifeProof’s waterproof audio jack and my regular iPhone earbuds. We did not see that the phones were affected in any way.

Finally, we hit the range for the shot timer test. One of the drawbacks of having a case for your smartphone is that the audio quality is affected. This means that it can be harder to hear a person on the phone, and make it harder for them to hear you, because of the membranes that are used to keep the interior of the case dry and dust-free. We didn’t have much information on the OtterBox’s membranes, but LifeProof touts their Sound Enhancement System which is supposed to allow for full transmission of sound through the case.

The Shot Timer iOS app from Innovative Applications served as our test bed, and I shot a Para Ordnance P14.45 using Federal’s American Eagle brand of 230 grain FMJ ammunition. For each test I shot an El Presidente drill. My wife and assistant for these tests stood behind me to record each string. I’m not disclosing my times, because frankly they sucked and we’re testing the phone cases and not myself. In both cases, the timer worked well and was able to pick up each shot without fail.
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Kel-Tec CMR-30 Carbine Release Date Nears

RMR-30 prototype. Image courtesy Oleg Volk

RMR-30 prototype. Image courtesy Oleg Volk

That high pitched sound you just heard was my fanboi squee upon finding this news.

According to Oleg’s article they changed the name at Trijicon’s insistence (they make the RMR optic) from the RMR-30 to the CMR-30. A few other minor changes from the initial RMR I got to coon-finger at SHOT include redesigned charging handles that are slightly larger than what were on the RMR originally.

They haven’t actually SAID when it’ll be out yet, but I’m hoping with fingers crossed that it might be on or before SHOT 2015.

And you’d better believe I’ll be the first in line to pick one up!

Reloading Steel-Cased Ammunition

762x392Most people who have ventured into the realm of handloaded ammunition have broached the question at least once: Can steel-cased rounds be safely reloaded? Obviously they’ve been safely loaded at least once at the factory. Why can’t they be reloaded?

The answer is that they can be, and of course that tentative “Yes” is followed by a very big “but…” which should lead you to correctly believe that there are some pretty big caveats. To start with, there is an inordinate amount of military surplus steel-cased ammunition out on the market that is Berdan primed, meaning that it has two or more smaller flash holes and a center protrusion that acts as the anvil for the primer. This obstacle is not insurmountable, but it is significant. The second problem is the steel case itself. Like brass, it is ductile and malleable, but steel is also tougher. In addition it tends to have more memory and will spring back to its original shape after firing, unlike brass which remains formed to the chamber dimensions.

If you’re unlucky enough to have Berdan primed cases you’d like to reload, the first challenge is removing the spent primer. Confirm that you do indeed have Berdan primed cases by using a small bore light to illuminate the interior of the case. The presence of two or three small flash holes, as opposed to the single larger flash hole found on Boxer primed cases, indicates that you you won’t be able to deprime the round with a traditional decapping die. Instead, the best method is to remove the primer hydraulically. Water is incompressible and readily available in most circumstances. Simply fill the case with water and use a piston roughly the same diameter as the case mouth to drive the primer out by rapidly and forcefully ramming it into the case. A screwdriver can work in a pinch. Some water will spurt out around your improvised piston, but the rest should force the primer out of the pocket.

Of course, at this point you’re left with the option of either seeking out very hard to find Berdan primers, or machining out the projection, flash hole, and possibly even the primer pocket in order to safely load a Boxer primer. Whichever option you choose, do not under any circumstances attempt to prime a Berdan case with a Boxer primer: the projection of the case in the center of the pocket serves as the anvil and will cause a Boxer primer to detonate.

Steel cases are much more prone to oxidation when compared to brass. Most are covered with a polymer or laquer coating in order to prevent rust. I’d recommend against using cases that show any signs of corrosion, as this can weaken the case catastrophically and result in a rupture that could damage your firearm, injure you, or even kill you. Cleaning a steel case presents the next problem. Hard media such as stainless steel pins will scratch or even completely remove the protective coating. Ultrasonic cleaning is the best approach, but if you must use a traditional tumbler to clean the cases make sure to use a softer media such as corn cob.

Luckily, for most people attempting to reload steel-cased ammunition, modern steel cases are manufactured using Boxer primers and the single large flash hole to which we are accustomed. This leads us to the next step: resizing. Carbide dies, while not absolutely necessary, are highly recommended. You’ll also need to make sure that the cases are well lubricated in order to avoid getting them stuck in the die.

From here on out, the method for reloading steel-cased ammunition is very much the same as loading brass-cased rounds. The one part that may be difficult in some cases is seating the bullet. As mentioned above, steel cases have more memory than brass cases and will tend to spring back to their original shape. Because of this, seating a flat based bullet can be more difficult even if you’re using a throat expanding die.

Frankly, other than a complete “zombie apocalypse” scenario it’s hard to come up with a situation where you would need to know how to reload steel-cased ammo. Brass, both new and once-fired, is abundant and easy to find. Even preppers anticipating a complete grid-down collapse would have a hard time making the case that brass will suddenly up and disappear. Still, if you’re concerned about whether or not it’s possible to do, or if you just want to try it out on a lark, rest assured: it can be done.

Reloading Safety Basics

Personal Protective EquipmentPresumably, if you’re reading this column, you have at least a passing interest in handloading your own ammunition. This is, of course, a great thing and I would encourage all hunters and shooters to at the very least become knowledgeable about the practice. Like nearly all things involving firearms safety needs to be paramount, and that’s what I’d like to talk with you about today.

First, let’s talk safety equipment. When reloading ammunition we work with components that are flammable and explosive. Loose powders can catch fire quite easily and primers can occasionally detonate inadvertently. Accidents happen despite all the precautions we take. Presses and dies place brass under immense pressure. Power trimmers especially can launch shards of brass at high-speed right at your face. It is exceedingly difficult to be an accomplished shooter without your eyeballs. Take care of them. Eye protection in the form of safety goggles or glasses is absolutely necessary.

Nitrile gloves are also essential in helping to prevent the spread of lead residue. Traces of lead contaminate not the bullets, but the brass. Residue from the primer, along with a tiny amount that is occasionally vaporized from the bullet itself, is left covering the brass when a round is fired. For this reason, even if you are wearing gloves, you should always wash your hands after handling firearms, brass, and other components that may be exposed.

Along those same lines, don’t eat while reloading. Regardless of your dietary needs, a peanut butter and lead sandwich probably isn’t something your doctor would recommend. Again, don’t forget to wash your hands before eating if you’ve recently spent time at the range or been handling any reloading components.

Do I really need to mention that smoking while reloading is a bad idea? Don’t do it. Better yet, quit the habit completely if you’re able.

Your work area should be neat and organized. This not only helps you keep track of what you are doing, it also helps to eliminate potentially dangerous accidents and errors. Additionally, your work area should be distraction-free. This may mean that it’s set up in a designated work area, such as a garage or basement. It may also mean that you only set up your press after the kids are in bed. If you have a television or other media distraction in your work area, turn it off. Your focus should be 100% on the task at hand.

When loading ammunition you should only have the components necessary for that one load out and on your workbench.This helps to avoid inadvertently using the wrong powder or primers. All components should be stored only in the original factory packaging, and care should be taken to verify the label before use. When not in use, powders and primers should be stored separately in a cool dry place. The use of a fire-resistant metal cabinet is highly encouraged.

Never mix components. Every part of a cartridge interacts with the others. If you’re switching out one component for another you need to work the load up again. Changing something as simple as the bullet manufacturer, even if the bullet weight and construction are the same, can have great effect on your load. The same applies to brass. Case volume can vary from headstamp to headstamp, and the result very well could be a boom instead of a bang when you pull the trigger. Any time that any component of your cartridge is changed back off the load by 10% and work it up again.

Keep up to date on your loading manuals. Don’t simply rely on that one reloading manual you bought 20-years ago with your first press. Powder formulas change over time, and loads are constantly tested and refined by manufacturers. Furthermore, use extreme caution when following recipes found on the internet or relayed by someone at the range. What works for their firearms may not necessarily work in yours. Do your research and always start at 90% of the recommended load.

Along those same lines, make sure your reloading log is up to date. You do keep a handload journal, don’t you? Such a resource is invaluable when tracking and evaluating round performance as well as spotting possible component degredation in older rounds. Log details of not only components and weights, but also lot and batch numbers along with date of manufacture, if known, and date loaded.

At the end of the day, reloading is about all the little details. Develop a ritual, a series of steps that you follow and don’t deviate from. Get in the habit of working safely. Creating effective loads requires not just careful logging of load performance, attention to weights and measurements to create accurate and safe cartridges, but also attention to various safety protocols.