First Looks at the LHR Redemption

I know. This is about 5 years too late. However, a good fellow at 24hourcampfire.com saw I was asking about the Thompson Center Strike and offered me a NIB LHR Redeption at a remarkable discount. It was too good of an offer to let it go by.

Just so you understand. Thompson Center bought out LHR a while back, specifically to get its hands on the LHR Redemption and sell it as The Strike. Ironically, they turned around and claimed they “revolutionized the world of muzzleloading.”  I don’t see how you do that by buying out your competitor, but I have to admit it is a cool rifle.

It’s a .50 cal inline muzzleloader with an innovative Adapt breech plug system. The plug itself is an unthreaded insert with an O-ring seal. The plug is held in place with a collar with external threads. This keeps the threads away from getting mucked up with crud. I’ve now shot it, and cleaned it, and I have to say it works.

What motivated me to buy the Redeption, if you really want to know was the looks. Most modern inlines have what I think are ugly plastic stocks, and they all seem to want to copy the H&R Topper. The Topper along with every other break-open single shot for the past  hundred years is the ugly girlfriend that you do not mind loaning out to other guys. The Redemption, on the other hand,  has a walnut stock and an overall design with strong European influences. To me, it looks like a Steyr-Mannlicher Duet only this one came in at under a tenth the cost.

Accuracy is the other great selling point of the Redeption/Strike. This was easily the easiest muzzleloader I have ever to get a group at 100 yards. Mind you, I don’t mean to come off as an expert on this. However, I’ve tried before, and ended up shooting at 50 yards.

I mounted a Bushnell Banner 3-9X40mm on the rifle.  I’ve been using this scope a lot, and I cannot say enough good things about it.  In my treestands in the morning, I’m getting a good 10 extra minutes of usable hunting light.   In the evenings I find that peering out into the pasture, I can see deer at 200 yards beyond legal hunting where before I was seeing nothing but mud. Visually, I have a hard time telling the difference between the Banner and the Elite. Banner Elite costs 6 times as much.

I set up at 100 yards with the Redemption and tried a bunch of different loads:

  • .50 cal 320 Lee R.E.A.L. cast from pure lead and tumble lubed with Alox and shot over a vegetable wad.
  • Lee TL430-240-SWC cast in pure lead in Harvester Crush-Rib Sabots
  • Hornady .44 Mag 300 grain XTP in Harvester Crush-Rib Sabots

Just to keep it simple, I used 80 grains of Hodgdon Triple-Seven and Winchester Triple-Seven 209 primers throughout.

All three look like they might have possibilities down the road.  The Lee pistol bullets did not group well.  The XTPs were hard to load. I was glad I had a range rod handy. I would not have wanted to do this with rifle’s ramrod. The old standby .50 Lee R.E.A.L. did the best for ease in loading and also produced a recognizeable group at 100 yards.

The  one detraction I can say with the Redeption/Strike is that the ramrod that is supplied with the firearm is short.  There is an extender that comes in the kit that you are supposed to screw on the barrel for cleaning, but what is really needed is a nice long range rod.  Luckily, I brought one along. With the sabots, there is really no chance of a quick reload in the field.  Even after a quick spit-patch cleaning, the Harvester sabots require considerable force to get them down the barrel and seated on the charge.  The R.E.A.L. bullets had a definte advantage in this regard.  I was able to press them in a good part of the way with my thumb.

Back home, I put the Adapt breech system to the test.  The collar unscrewed with just a wee bit of help from the multi-tool. I had used anti-seize on the threads.  The plug itself was pretty gunked up, but I wrapped it in a patch with Ed’s Red and it wiped off fine after a 12-hour soak.  Similarly, I found I could clean out the barrel running a wet patch through it and letting it sit overnight to loosen up the plastic residue. This is a trick I learned with cleaning wad fouling out of shotgun barrels and it translates well to modern inlines.

 

 

 

 

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More Work on the Stands

Supercore and I were back at it this weekend, working on upgrading his blind at S-10 and finishing off Hollywood. S-10 got some sides manufactured from the fence pickets we salvaged this spring.

Hollywood is all but done. I put the railing up Saturday afternoon and then nailed the floor down Sunday. All that’s left is adding some hardware and mounting a permanent ladder.

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The Tower at Hollywood

Over the past few weekends, we’ve been working on new stands. One of them, was far enough along that I trucked it out to its new position. Hollywood is a tower blind built with the Elevators bracket system. I’ve had these brackets for almost a decade. They were originally meant for the blind at Midway, but that was an ill-fated attempt to say the least– no fault of the brackets.

Just so you know, the problem with the Midway build was that I had built it as sturdy as I could without considering weight.  During the erection, one of the legs shattered  Moose surfed it all the way to the ground.  I fell off and ended up with the front wall and the ladder draped over me.  That was a close call. Midway now sits on stumpy legs about a foot off the ground.  I did a lot of research and decided this time out, I as going to go about as minimal as I could– a 5X7-foot deck with no walls, just a railing.

The new blind will overlook a long stretch of open pasture running between the head of Hootin’ Holler and Hammond North.

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A Decade without Bow Hunting

This weekend marks the beginning of the tenth season since I stopped bowhunting. Yes, I miss it, but not as much as I thought I would. The incident that did it was actually back in July.

I’d been using a DIY strength trainer for years– 3 screen door springs and a couple of handles. It mimicked my bow enough that I could draw and hold in the comfort of my bedroom. I picked it up from under the chair one afternoon and gave it a pull and felt hot fire in my shoulder. I put the thing back down and realized I’d done something significant. At the time, I figured I would just give it a rest and come back later. At Thanksgiving, I was still having trouble and could not get my right arm past about 7 O’Clock. Doc called it Bursitis. Over the winter it got better, but by the next summer I was still hesitant to go muck with it. Since then, I have had flair-ups, but I’ve learned to adapt. I don’t do pound a lot of nails. I don’t cut much firewood with a half-moon saw. I use screws and a nailer. I own 4 chainsaws.

I never mentioned the shoulder in my weblog back then. I looked for an entry and it was not there.  Obviously I was not ready to discuss it. I found a draft of a post I was going to make in 2012, marking the 5th anniversary.  It never got posted, so I can assume I still was not ready to talk about my shoulder even then. This is going to be a bit ticklish. I know my bow hunting friends might very well look at this and think I am knocking bow hunting. I am trying my darnedest not to do so.

It was not until 2009 or thereabouts that I started to look for permanent replacements for bowhunting. Since I usually had my freezers full by the end of November, It was really just October I had to worry about. I thought it was going to be a problem, but I found I was already adjusting. Bowhunting had been such a solitary pursuit. Not having it meant more time with the family. Two weekends were already spoken for in the way of Yute Season and Muzzleloader Season in the middle of the month. As it has panned out, I hardly missed it.

I tried a crossbow. The doc signed the paper that allowed me to hunt all of KY bow season with one. What I found was that I finally had to face up to a basic underlying bias in my hunting; I had stopped taking early season hunting seriously. Part of it was due to the way Kentucky structures its seasons. Part of it was just my own eccentricities. For me, September always seemed too hot to be out hunting. I came of age in a state where the Bow Opener was the first weekend in October, and I was happy with that. As it turned out, the deer on my farm tend to agree. Usually they leave my ridge in late summer and go feed down in the river bottoms, and I don’t usually see them until about mid-October. Kentucky schedules its early Yute Season and early Muzzleloader Season in mid-October, so that was always a distraction. The peak of the rut is usually just about when Modern Weapons season opens, so even with a healthy shoulder, I was only bow hunting a few weekends before Rifle Season. It hardly seemed worthwhile. Late season? It is hard to get worked up enough to go out in the cold in December and January with a bow if your freezer is packed by Thanksgiving.

The farther I got from my last bow hunt, the less I missed it. Even after a decade, I have a hard time putting it in perspective. I was a pretty dedicated bowhunter for twenty years. Some years I used up all my paid vacation on bowhunting. I did not mind the frustration and hardships. I did not mind the practice. I loved being outdoors. What I found was that I found it harder as my kids got older to justify the amount of time I had to spend hunting alone. I also realized that if I was going to have a chance at a nice rack on my property, I had to wait until the rut to fill my tags, and that meant waiting until November. By then it made more sense to have a rifle in my hand as a bow. Lo and behold, the more I used a rifle, the more I liked it. Long before the shoulder gave out, I realized my bowhunting trips were turning into armed scouting expeditions.

So you can chalk family concerns up as one reason for my loss of interest. Health concerns are another. Those are easy, but after 20 years of bowhunting I found it a bit disconcerting to be so far removed from it so soon. The other reasons were a little tougher to grasp as well as own up to.

COST: Bowhunting is hard to do on the cheap. A properly outfitted hunting arrow is probably $7-12 bucks a pop. Granted, you can reuse them up to a point, but still! Everything about bow hunting is gadget driven, unless you go ultra-primitive. My hunting expenses plummeted after I stopped bowhunting. I went from a large-sized day-pack and a butt-pack to just a small shoulder bag for all the stuff I was able to remove.

TIME: It takes a huge investment in time to bowhunt properly. A lot of guys shoot year round. I usually started pulling my bow in July or August. However, the last five years or so that I used the bow, I found it was a lot of commitment, just to go out and sit in a tree. I knew the real show was going to start in mid-November and watching doe and small bucks pass under my stand was fun, but I found I could have just as much fun without a bow in my hand. Early season hunting also consumed a lot of the time I now use for scouting. Practice? I went from twenty or arrows several nights a week to firing a few practice shots with each rifle to check my zero.

HEARTACHE: I had been fortunate over the years. I lost one buck to a blown shot with a bow. I have only one deer not recovered with a muzzleloader, and one with a rifle. However, every time a deer went pounding out of sight with one of my arrows sticking out of their hide, I thought I was going to lose it. Sure, I have had that that happen twice in a year gun hunting, but that was with a 35 Whelen; I knew the answer was certain. I just did not know how long it was going to take me to find them or how much effort it was going to take to schlepp them out. With bowhunting, I always walked away with a queasy feeling I had screwed up, even if the deer died 20 yards from the stand. I did not have to shoot at a deer to have heartache either. I cannot count the number of times I had to sit passively and watch a nice fat buck walk by at 60 yards.

FAILURE: As I said, I only lost one buck in twenty years of bowhunting. I missed a few, but they were clean misses. With a modern rifle, I have seldom had any question of the outcome. Over the years, however, I had to keep asking myself, what was the cost of failure? Sure, I suffered a lot, losing a deer, but it was nothing like what the deer felt. While I was actively bowhunting, the price of failure always seemed to be. . . what can I call this? Manageable? Acceptable? Now that I have been away from it for all these years, I see how badly I felt in 2008 grazing a nice buck with a rifle. I nicked the buck in 2008 and it  got away, because my scope had gotten a bump. If I had done that with a bow, I probably would have been quite inconsolable. Two years later I nailed my #2 best buck out in the middle of a field from the same stand. He jumped the fence and disappeared without leaving a blood trail. It took me a half hour to discover that he had not run down into the ravine I had searched, but was got his antlers caught in the fence and died almost instantly in tall grass right at the fenceline. That was a long half-hour. With a rifle, that sort of thing is going to happen once in a while. With a bow, nearly every shot at a deer left me emotionally drained.

SUCCESS: I took some nice bucks when I was bowhunting– some of my best. I had chances at a few more. There were a few more bruisers that just never got into range for the bow. However, many of my biggest bucks and my biggest successes have all been with a rifle and all but a couple have been taken within spitting distance of my stand. I really do not feel all that greater an achievement bow vs. rifle or close-in vs airmail. I will say that when the biggest buck I have ever seen came strolling up to the stand, I was glad I was holding a rifle. This was one shot I did not want to screw up. For me, at least, looking at that big rack up on the fireplace never has me regretting I did not do it with a bow.

CHALLENGE: I do not feel less of a hunter for bagging a big deer with a rifle over a bow. I do not feel less of a man for having put my bow down. To me, the challenge has always been about things much less distinct. Mostly it has been about just showing up. The hard part has been committing to getting out of a warm bed and heading for the truck at 3 AM. I always amaze myself that despite a demanding job and a growing family, I made it out. All the gear, all the food, hunting from a tent, schlepping in a climber in the dark, these were all far more of a challenge in total that what I held in my hand, waiting for the sun to come up.

I do not mean to be knocking bow hunting. However, after completing my tenth season without a bow, I have to say that my life has improved. I am still out in the woods as much, probably more so. I am certainly more as devoted than ever to the sport; it has been a year round passion since I got the farm. I did not become a slob when I put down my bow, and wearing an orange hat did not make me a slobbering idiot. Granted, I now hunt at a time and place when it is common to hear 1-3 shots per minute for the first three hours of season, However, I have the whole rest of the year to enjoy peace and solitude. For a couple of weeks out of the year, I’m no longer out on a nature walk, I’m out to kill.

If there is a message in this for the rest of you, I just want to encourage folks to keep an open mind in Deer Hunting. So much of what we see on TV and read on the forums promotes snobbery. Bow is more of a challenge. Single Shot rifles are what the experts use– you’ve seen this stuff. I was once called a “booger-eating moron” by a fellow simply because I shoot deer with a 30-06 instead of a more sophisticated cartridge. Another called me a cretinous hillbilly, because I admitted to hunting with a semi-automatic rifle. A lot of this comes from the couch potato crowd, but a lot of comes from our own. Having hunted with a crossbow, I can tell you that it is every bit of a challenge– a bit different from a compound bow, but still a challenge. Shotgun season? Rifle season? They are different, and they are different enough that it is worth trying if you haven’t.

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Ladder Stand Renovations

The treestands at camp are in need of some long-overdue PM.   Virginia is getting downright unsafe. Campground had a cracked weld.  The rest are just showing the ravaged of time and rust.  The last time I set one of these Hunters View Buddy Stands into a tree, George W. Bush was president and Hunters View was still in business.  I’ve been tending them every year with new straps and spraying them with  RustOleum.  However, Hurricane Ike in 2008 did not do any of them any good and some have been in a tree since 2001.

I have shuffled a lot of stands in my time.  These buddy stands are not something you want to try solo.  They weigh close to 90 lbs and it’s all at the top.  I have come up with a system for getting them in and out of trees that works well.  It uses two people and two rope.  I’ll cover the extraction first.

  1. I put take a loop of cord and make a noose out of it.  I put it around the tree at the level of the seat.  Into the loop that hangs loose, I insert a removeable chain link.  This will act like a pulley when I lower the stand.  By making a loop around the tree, I give the cord a chance to expand at some point in the future.  This way it does not dig into the bark.  Remember that if you are not replacing the stand immediately the cord and the link will be up there forever.  Paracord works fine for this.
  2. Into the link, I run a half-inch rope.  One end goes to the ground. The other gets attached to the  yoke I tie in the next step. My partner runs the ground end back and ties it off on a tree well back from where the stand will drop.
  3. With some 1/4 inch rope, I tie a yoke to the back of the seat of the buddy stand. The way I construct the yoke is to take cheap poly rope. The whole thing takes about 6 feet.  In the center, I tie a loop knot and then tie each end to the corner of the seat. The loop attaches to the rope in step #2.  The reason for this yoke is so that the stand is attached evenly at the corners and hangs off a single point.
  4. I attach some more half-inch rope to the front of the floor of the stand. This will be used to pull the stand away from the tree and get it a little past vertical.
  5. I then begin to descend the ladder. On the way down, I cut the straps holding the stand to the tree. I leave the X-straps in place. Those get cut last.
  6. My partner stands at the foot of the ladder and applies pressure to hold the ladder against the tree. This is just an extra safety measure. I have never had a buddy stand come off a tree while I was setting it up, but it would not be fun if it did.
  7. Once I am down the ladder, cut the X-straps and make sure they’re free. I then go and grab the ground line while my partner grabs the second line that runs off the front of the stand.
  8. Before bringing the stand down, I dig out around the base of the ladder.  A lot of times the end of the ladder gets embedded in the dirt.  I missed this step the first time, and the ladder section bent.
  9. My partner pulls his line.  The buddy stand comes to the vertical and the starts to drop. I put tension on my line and at this point my partner can drop his rope and move to a safe distance.
  10. I pay out the line and drop the stand gently to the ground.

Here we are at Campground the other day, dropping a buddy stand that had been in place for 10 years.

Here we are putting up the replacement.

Various notes and stray thoughts

When getting a stand up or down, as you will notice from the time-lapse videos, it’s all in the setup.  For all those pics, the actual raising and lowering only take up 2-3 frames. That’s it!  The rest is all preparation. If you do this right, it goes up in a jiffy.

One note on putting up the stand that differs from taking it down. You will need to insure the bottom of the stand is not going to move when you first start drawing it up.   For those first few feet I am raing it, I position one person at the base with their feet planted on the ends.  I also dig a little trench where I want to put the ladder base, so there is a spot for the ladder ends to grab and dig in.

Once the stand is up, I place a flat stone at the base of the stand to arrest the tendency of the ladder ends to sink into the ground.  With a platter sized rock in place, the ladder sinks in only to the depth of the first rung.

Something you may notice are the orange straps. I go through a lot of these.  They’re 400 lb. Capacity 1 in. x 15 ft. Ratcheting Tie Downs from Harbor Freight– 4 for $13 bucks.
Haul-Master® – item#63057
I use them for a lot of things.  They are hefty enough to replace the manufacturer’s straps after they rot out.  They also do a great job on adding a little English to get the ladder put together or get it apart.  I also add one to the the ladder as I am erecting an older buddy stand like the Hunters View, because they are not pinned and one strap, run top to bottom, will hold the ladder together long enough to get it up against the tree.  I normally use 2 per stand and replace 1 per year.  Yes, they’re rather long, but I cut off the excess and use them for all sorts of things around camp.  You’d be surprised what 10 feet of 1-inch Hunter Orange strap will do for you.  It makes a dandy game drag.
Every treestand I ever bought rusted. Some are rusty a week after you put them in the tree. RustOleum has been my paint of choice.  After a year or so in the tree, I’ll go over every spot I can reach with a can of the spray.  Stands I put up in 2008 have no rust where I sprayed RustOleum. They have a rust transformer that works well as a primer if you need it.

What camera is that?

What’s taking those timelapse videos is my Bushnell Trophy Cam Essential. I’ve had it for 3 years now.  I think you will agree it does a nice job.

Bushnell Trophy Cam Essential

I had it up to monitor the salt lick in the foreground– an easy way to take a census of what is on the property. It’s funny. We talk all about how intruding into the deer’s habitat will put them off. However, the camera registered deer coming to the lick within 24 hours each time we went there to do work. Yes, they did look up to see what was going on in the tree, but that was about it. A big buck dropped by at one point. He was wary. You could tell he’d been ’round the block and knew something was up. However, after a little bit of looking over his shoulder and being all tentative and such, he walked right up to the lick and chowed down. What’s funny is he did all this within 20 yards of the tree where the stand was located, making for an easy chip shot. You could tell he was a smart buck but he wasn’t all that smart.

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Going Progressive — A final assessment

I just finished up my last major session with the Hornady Lock n Load Auto-Progressive before turning to my deer hunting loads. I thought I would give y’all an update. My goal over the summer was to start with 9mm to get my feet wet, switch to 357 Magnum and then finish off with 223 REM if everything else went well. This is not a formal review of the Hornady LNL AP. I am not nearly that presumptuous. Rather, I figured you would like to hear about my adventures with the LNL AP.

Let me begin by saying that most, if not all my problems ended were wrapped up in my goal of using cast bullets. More specifically, it was the use of tumble-lubed bullets. My original goal was to find a super-cheap way to shoot 9mm using the Lee 358-125-RF bullet. I had been tumble-lubing for a couple of years using a 45/45/10 mix of Liquid Alox, Johnson’s Paste Wax and Mineral Spirits. It worked fine previously, but in the quantities I was loading, the lube kept accumulating in the seating die. About every 50 rounds or so, I had to stop to clean the seating plug and then reset it for proper depth. The bottom line is that the thinest possible coat of tumble lube works. I was being overly generous. Before I try cast bullets again in the LNL AP, I plan on examining other lubing alternatives.

The other hitch was the adjustment of the PTX die. Some find this feature of the LNL AP impossible. I found it tricky. The Hornady LNL AP allows for 5 stations. Station 1 is always going to be Size and De-prime. #2 is Powder. #3 I used for the Powder Cop. #4 was bullet seat. #5 was Factory Crimp. The problem is where do you put the case expander die? Hornady sells Powder Through Expander inserts (PTX) so that case mouth expansion can happen as you are loading the powder. There are plenty of Youtubes already out there. I am not going to explain how to set a PTX properly.   My advice is to read and follow the Hornady manual to the letter and it works.

Changeover to 357 Magnum

Changeover from 9mm to 357 Magnum was not all that hard, and most of it was all first-time stuff. I ordered a pack of 10 Hornady LNL bushings and I spent a good deal of time getting the dies installed, but changing back a second time will be simple. Remember that if you use Lee Dies to keep a set of Hornady Lock Rings around. You need the extra bite, because Lee rings sacrifice a thread or two for the O-ring. Lee dies sit low in the Hornady bushings. I did not need to change out the lock rings with the RCBS 357 Magnum dies.

As I mentioned earlier, the big bugaboo with both the 9mm and 357 Magnum was the tumble-lubed bullets. Before I switched over, I loaded some 9mm with some Berry Hollow Base plated bullets. Those went through the press without a hitch. Ditto for the 357 Magnum. I had some commercial 158 grain hard-cast LSWC’s laying about. They had a nice blue lube ring around each bullet. They slid in just fine. I am not saying stay away from home-cast bullets. I’m not saying to stay away from tumble-lubed bullets. It’s just that for a beginning project, my tumble-lubed Lee 358-125-RF made things more difficult. With commercial bullets, I was finally able to achieve a 200 round-per-hour rate here and there.

When things go horribly wrong:

Every press has its idiosyncracies. The LNL AP is no exception. I had loaded about 500 rounds when things started to go bad. Before passing judgement on the LNL AP, remember this is a new press and a newbie operator.

The first sign of trouble for me was a couple of cases getting crushed by the PTX die. Next it was the primers not seating properly. It took quite a while to diagnose. It turned out the indexing pawls needed adjustment. There are these two little thinguses under the bottom of the press that control how far the shellplate travels in the downstroke and upstroke. These are not supposed to need adjustment. However, in my case, they did. Again, the manual is your friend. If you read what it says, it tells you exactly what to do. The problem for me was not fully understanding the problem. Along the way, I made some mistakes and at one point everything siezed up. I did not know what the problem was and I forced it a bit too much. The left pawl sheared. I guess this happens a lot, because Hornady gives you a spare pawl. My suggestion is that as soon as you break one, call Hornady and get one in the mail. The press has a lifetime guarantee. I didn’t call the first time and I regretted it. More on that later.

A nagging problem that I had with the press from the get-go was a flake or two of powder coming out of the case as it traveled between Stations 2 and 4. It wasn’t enough to effect the load. It just happened here or there. I was using Hodgdon Universal Clays, which is a light flake powder, a twin to Alliant’s Unique. The problem was that this powder accumulated and found its way under the shellplate. This problem came back to bite me later. My admonition is as follows.

1) The shellplate is held on by a large retainer bolt that needs to be tightened down just a hair beyond finger tight. It does come loose and needs to be watched. The normal reaction is to tighten it down more. Don’t.
2) Whenever there is a break in the action, it is fairly easy to remove the shellplate and inspect and clean underneath. Do so.
3) If you double-charge or have another reason to spill powder, get in under the shellplate and clean it out. Pay particular attention to the channel in which the primer slide operates.

I will also mention this little bit of powder slop is normal in all progressives and is more prevalent with flake powders. I tried Tightgroup, and it was a bit less so. With ball powder it was non-existant.

Changeover to 223 REM

Now for the second changeover– going from 357 Mag to 223 Rem. My goal here was to try and load 200 rounds of blasting ammo for our Mini-14’s. The changeover went smoothly overall. For this load I changed around stations #4 and #5. At #4, I put a Hornady Universal Expander Die set to put just a hint of a bell into the case mouth. I put the bullet seater at #5. My reason for the expander die was that I had small flat-based bullets, specifically 55 grain Hornady SP’s to load. I did not want the bullet to fall off, and I knew from loading on a single-staged press that boat-tailled bullet had a better chance of hanging on for the ride into the die. This was not the kind of expansion that you do with lead bullets. It is barely perceptible.

Right away, I was having trouble getting the primers to seat. At first I thought it was the pawls that needed adjusting again. No– wrong bunnyhole. It turned out that there were two things at play, but I trashed another pawl and a primer slide finding out. For one thing, the 223 cases were a fresh batch of once-fired brass I’d bought for the occasion. They were not military brass, but they had headstamps that I had never seen. Fix #1 was a matter of sizing and decapping on the Rockchucker and then running them through again using RCBS military crimp remover die to uniform the primer pocket.

Fix #2 was related to my admonition regarding not letting stuff accumulate in the channel that holds the primer slide. Gunk accumulates in that channel and it all gets pushed up to the end. Eventually enough gunk forms to keep the slide from moving all the way forward and this keeps the primer seater punch from coming up properly. There is a fine line here between rough working and catastrophe. Had a couple rough seatings and then the primer punch caught enough of the slide to make it shatter on the next down stroke. It does not take a whole lot of force to do it either. I also broke a pawl on that stroke. This was on a Sunday afternoon, so it was a matter of waiting until the next business day and calling the 800 number. No problems. An operator found me in the system and I had a package in the mailbox by mid-week. To reload is to break things. I’ve broken parts on Lee, RCBS, and now Hornady. The Customer Service folks are all three very gracious and generous. Hornady was the first to know me before my first call, and it comes from the online warranty registration.

So should I have listened to all the voices that said I was a dolt for not buying a Dillon? I’ve got less than 2000 rounds through the LNL AP. None of the problems were due to cheap plastic parts or shoddy workmanship. Most of the problems were due to the connection between the stool and the operating handle, and frankly I’ve known that was going since I turned 50. I just hope I can get a few more decades out of it.

So there I was, new parts in hand, and 200 rounds of 223 Rem waiting for me. I once had a fiance that told me life was perverse. It can be beautiful, but it won’t. She said that about a month before running off with my best friend. I had originally planned on using H4895 which is a stick powder. I cannot say the Hornady powder measure had “problems” with the sticks. However, I did sense there was quite a bit of cutting going on. I switched to BL(C)-2 and the ball powder cycled much more smoothly. Second, even with all the brass had been run through the military de-crimper, I was still getting rough primer seating.

1) Hornady should include a toothbrush in their list of required tools. I had cleaned out the channel during changeovers, but I had not cleaned it well enough. I finally used a little brake cleaner and a toothbrush to really give the end of the channel a good scrubbing. What I found was the first cleaning had failed to loosen an accumulation of dry lubricant, powder, and bullet lube that had impacted and solidified. I will now add this to my PM list at every changeover.
2) I used my RCBS reamer/deburrer to ream the primer pocket of the brass just a wee bit. I’ve had to do this before with mil-crimped brass. The RCBS de-crimper gets it almost all the way there, but it takes an extra .0001 or two to make the primers slide in.

The next 200 rounds did not exactly fly by. I was reaming the primer pocket of each round individually before I inserted it. However, the press functioned flawlessly. By the time I was done, I felt I had really seen the press do what it was designed to do. I was satisfied I had made a good choice.

My next step is to break it all down and store the Hornady LNL AP until the end of deer season. I am going to put the Rockchucker back on the bench and start loading deer rounds.

1) Yes, I could leave the LNL AP on the bench, but I designed the new bench specifically so I could interchange presses as needed.
2) Yes, the Rockchucker can be mounted right next to the LNL AP on my bench. In fact, I tested that out when I had to put the Rockchucker up for the 223 REM brass that needed the primer pockets uniformed.
3) Yes, I could do almost all my deer rounds for the coming year with the LNL if I bought the #1 shellplate. It handles 30-06, 308 Win, 25-06 and a bunch of others. However, when you’re loading batches of 20-50 rounds, a good single-stage press is still preferrable, at least the way I load.

 

Final  Thoughts

Did I make the right choice? Look, the Hornady LNL AP was a good hundred dollars less than a Dillon 550 and it has auto-indexing more like the 650. My buddy, SuperCore, runs a 650 and his big beef with it is that it takes forever to do a changeover. I have to say changeovers were not all that painful with the LNL AP. In fact, if you were to factor out all the one-time setup and all the newbie mistakes, I think you could probably get the LNL AP changed over in less than an hour. I plan to test that this winter. Is the Dillon better? Head to head with all the bells and whistles, the Dillon might be the better choice for someone who is planning on cranking out vast quantities of ammo at high speed. Without the brass feeder and the bullet feeder, I can do 200 rounds in an hour if all is setup beforehand. That is about all I wanted it for. So I would have to say that the Hornady LNL AP represents at very least a middle ground between a turret press and a high-volume reloader. It covers that middle ground at a lower price and the overall experience was not nearly as frightful as some of the horror stories I’ve read online about bottom-end progressives.

Price: I got my press mailorder from Grafs.com in the spring for $450 and it included a stool, free shipping, and 500 rounds of Hornady bullets. I saw the LNL AP on sale at Cabelas last weekend for $389, sans stool, with the same 500 bullet offer. I would have had to pay 6.5% sales tax on that and I do like my stool. The bottom line is the Hornady LNL AP is a good deal and a great deal if you shop. It does the job of a press costing much much more. I’m happy as a clam.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Squirrel Opener 2017

  Angus observed the KY Squirrel Opener this past weekend.

 

 

 

 

He’s always enjoyed a good squirrel hunt. Here’s a picture of him back in ’08.

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Deer Camp — Maintenance Weekend

I’ve been busy since July. However, I did not have all that much to show for it. Finally, I’ve got something meaningful to report. This weekend was the first of a series of maintenance weekends at Camp. Some of it was long overdue.

The first project was the Jagende hutte. I built this blind back in 2003 from a packing crate and scraps of T1-11 siding. It has held up remarkably well, but the roll roof started to go a while back and it was time to replace it. SuperCore uses this blind a lot. He was out to help. Angus did all the hammering up on the roof for the stuff I couldn’t reach from the ground. It’s probably good for another 15 seasons.

Here’s the link to the article from 2003.  Angus has sure grown up!

The Jagende Hutte

I found a neighbor taking out a deck in his back yard and asked if I could have the wood. Another neighbor had about 40 foot of fence come down on him. I asked if I could have the pickets. SuperCore lent me his trailer, and I brought this all down to camp Friday night. The plan is to build a permanent blind for Angus at Lazy Boy, put some siding on Supercore’s blind at S-10 and build a new ground blind just behind the house to cover about 300 yards of pasture in two directions. The other project we intend to accomplish is a new tower blind overlooking Hootin’ Holler, but that will take a bunch of material we have yet to acquire.

Also on the plan was the first steps in our ladder stand renovation project. The stand at Campground had two blown welds just below the seat. Garbage pit and Newstand have fallen into disuse. Virginia is rusted beyond redeption and Blackberry has a rusted shooting rail. The plan is to:

  •  Replace Campground with a new stand.
  •  Pull Garbage Pit and NewStand out.
  •  Replace Virginia and BlackBerry with parts rummaged from the other stands

These are all Hunters View 15 foot buddy stands. The oldest is at Virgina. It went onto its first tree in 2001 and has been on two more since. It has now rusted beyond redemption. The others went up from 2003 to 2008. Hunters View went out of business long ago, so there are no replacement parts out there.

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Eye Candy 2017

In the waning years of my association with D&DH, I asked the blunt question: are game cameras really worth it? The answers I got were surprisingly honest. What it came down to was that everyone loved the eye candy. However, you had to be fairly dedicated to it to get actionable intelligence.

The guy who had the best success was running 6 cameras per 100 acres and tending them several times a week. He admitted it was a hobby unto itself. The buck selection was rather paltry at our farm for a few years, but the herd started turning around about 4 years ago. Last summer, I started seeing decent bucks on my camera. The result was that in 2016 we all had our buck tags filled with nice mature bucks on the Opener. None of them were fellows I’d seen on the camera, but you could see a trend building. Of course you could also see it by glassing the pastures that summer or scouting the edges of those pastures in October. Sign was everywhere. We knew were were going to have a good season.

This year? The Eye Candy has been extremely good, but so have all the other signs. Here is a recent set of pics gleaned off the camera.

It comes down to two ways of looking at buck behavior. On the one hand, there is all this talk about buck sanctuaries and core areas. I will not dispute any of it. I have had some real chandeliers take up residence on my property over the years. However, they can be up and gone overnight. The other way of looking at the situation is to concentrate on the vagabond nature of bucks in the fall. They will cover miles in a day. Part of that is about chasing doe. A big part of it is their calorie requirements. The former view makes for the best magazine copy. Guys want to read about bucks taken in their lair. The latter view is all about making the doe groups happy and then turning around to make them bait. It is not nearly as sexy. It also makes hunting bucks easier, because it is easier to keep track of the doe herds. Either way, a camera on the property does generate some good pics once in a while.

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New Ohio Deer Rifle Rules

There has been a change in what constitutes a legal deer rifle in Ohio.

From the ODNR Website:

Straight-walled cartridge rifles in the following calibers: New this year! All straight-walled cartridge calibers from a minimum of .357 to a maximum of .50. Shotguns and straight-walled cartridge rifles can be loaded with no more than three shells in the chamber and magazine combined.

 

Previously, there had been a laundry list of cherry-picked chamberings that look like somebody had gone through their closet and picked what they thought might kill a deer. This is a good sign. Ohio went three years under the previous rule with no ill effects to the herd and no circular firing squad among the hunters. Time to move it up a notch. Good work, ODNR!

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