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Brass uniformity – how much of a difference is there?

Brass uniformity affects a few things – but how much of a difference can you expect from brand to brand? If you have highly consistent brass you’ll notice similar life spans across your reloads, as they stretch at the same rate. You’ll have near identical case capacities, the result of uniform wall thicknesses. There’s a whole lot more to case uniformity, but what I want to focus on is the amazing difference from brand to brand.

Five lots of 10 brass - which came out tops?
Five lots of 10 brass – which came out tops?

Here’s a quote from an article on .233 brass at 6mmBR:

From a reloading standpoint, the important thing to note is the rather substantial variance in case capacity from one brand of brass to another–as much as 2.6 grains! So, you cannot assume that a particular “pet load” will work if you change brass brands–you’ll have to do new testing.

Two-point-six grains – that may not seem like much, but for the little .223 case, it’s a fair amount. Bear in mind, the brass compared in that article is mostly higher-end stuff.

Our brass uniformity test

I’ve just started loading for 7mm-08, and as I undertook loading for an OCW test, I thought I should start with the most uniform brass possible, so that the results of various powder charges are more meaningful.

I had 5 brands of once-fired brass, that I’d put through my Mossberg 100 ATR. I didn’t have a huge quantity of each, so I just took a random sample of 10 of each. The brands ranged from budget to middle of the road. We looked at Prvi Partizan (PPU), Highland, Remington, Winchester and Hornady.

Unlike the .223 test at 6mmBR, I noticed 17.44 gr difference in average weight from the highest to the lowest. This is probably a result of both looking at a larger case and also looking at wider variety of brass quality.


The heaviest brass was PPU, coming in at 181.79 gr on average. Highland (produced by PPU) interestingly came in quite different on average at 171.67 gr. The more middle-end manufacturers (we weren’t looking at the likes of Norma or Lapua here), came in more similar: Remington at 168.07 gr, Winchester at 164.35 gr, and; Hornady at 165.69 gr.

Winchester and then Hornady came in the lightest, which would hint at more internal case capacity, but you couldn’t say that for sure without testing H2O capacity, which I didn’t get into. I did the entire test using a digital scale and digital calipers, to identify overall uniformity.

Simple tools for a simple test.
Simple tools for a simple test.


Winchester had the lowest standard deviation in weight (0.48 gr), and the least difference between highest and lowest (1.60 gr). The highest was surprisingly Hornady at 1.33 gr standard deviation and a difference of 4.90 gr between highest and lowest. The S.D. for Remington, PPU and Highland were as follows; 0.74 gr, and 1.07 gr and, 1.05 gr. Respectively, the differences between highest and lowest were; 2.40 gr, 3.40 gr and 3.30 gr.


After one firing, most brands didn’t have much of an increase in overall length. All eamsurements below in millimetres.

Brand  Standard Deviation Difference High-to-low
Remington 0.02 0.07
Highland 0.03 0.08
Winchester 0.03 0.12
Hornady 0.03 0.10
PPU 0.05 0.16

Neck diameters and wall thickness:

All brands except Hornady and PPU had extremely uniform outside diameters for their necks (0.00 mm S.D. and high-to-low differences of 0.01 and 0.02 mm). Hornady and PPU both had 0.01 mm S.D.s and high-to-low differences of 0.02 mm.

The inside diameter showed a bit more variation, as a product of both brass thickness and softness.

Brand  Standard Deviation Difference High-to-low
Winchester 0.01 0.02
Hornady 0.01 0.02
PPU 0.01 0.05
Remington 0.02 0.06
Highland 0.03 0.08

Which brass did I choose?

All of these brands had similar factory loads, with 139 gr or 140 gr projectiles. The differences in the once-fired brass was quite illuminating. Also interesting, but not deal breaking, was that Remington and Winchester both had a single silver primer out of a box of 20 cartridges, when the other 19 were brass-coloured. After this series of tests I decided to stick with Winchester brass for my 7mm-08, as it was the most uniform in every category except length, where it came middle of the pack.

One of these things is not like the others #Winchester #7mm-08 #factoryammo

A photo posted by The Gun Rack (@gunracknz) on

It’s important to note that these were small samples, and that brass in other calibres may vary quite differently from what we saw with the 7mm-08. There are also a whole bunch of brands we didn’t consider.

However, if you’re looking at lower priced ammo to generate good quality brass for reloading in 7mm-08, my money would be on Winchester – I even bought another pack of Super X today.


Product review: Weaver 40/44 Series 6.5-20×44 scope

Every now and then you come across a product that presents you with the best of dilemmas. The problem I have with my new 40/44 scope is choosing which rifle to fit it to. Now, I may sound like a gushing schoolgirl at this point, but read on and let me explain why this scope’s versatility is a nice problem to have.

Price range

The ocular bells allows plenty of clearance for bolt handles and gloved fingers.
The ocular bell allows plenty of clearance for bolt handles and gloved fingers.

Let’s not kid ourselves, when you’re purchasing optics the first thought you have is, ‘How much is my wallet going to bleed to get the kind of clarity/magnification/quality I want?’

There’s a common saying that if you put a $300 scope on a $1000 rifle, then you’ve got a $300 rifle. I would argue that the 40/44 Series 6.5-20×44 is the exception to this platitudinal rule.

The manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP) listed on Weaver’s website is roundabout $320-330 USD, depending on the specs you go for. If you’re lucky, you can catch it on special or find a store/site with free shipping and get it to your door for around that price. But! Does it shoot like it belongs in the $300 – $500 USD ($450 – $600 NZD) range?



The first thing I did when I unpacked the 40/44 was mount it on a Savage .243 to check out the fit and function. Unfortunately I installed it with rings that were a tad snug, and immediately had some long scratches after I pushed and pulled the scope around finding a comfortable fit.

The objective bell clears the rear sight on this Savage nicely.
The objective bell clears the rear sight on this Savage nicely.

Feeling pretty upset with myself for ruining a brand new scope (before I’d even had a chance to photograph it for this review too!), I tried to rub the marks out a bit with my thumb. And they lifted. The black, hard-anodized matte finish is built for such rugged use that even scraping it along in tight metal rings didn’t leave any permanent marks on the finish. I’ve had much more expensive scopes (especially with matte finishes) end up with unsightly scratches even from a trip to the range, let alone hiking through the bush.


If there’s one thing that’s a tell-tale sign of poor – or even average – manufacturing quality, it’s sloppy elevation and windage adjustments.

The fine gearing makes for smooth use and precise adjustments.
The fine gearing makes for smooth use and precise adjustments.

Even when I was just playing around with the scope before actually going to the range, I could tell that the 40/44 Series was just a little bit better made in this area than most. The clicks were tight and consistent, and there was no play in the adjustment turrets. After taking the turret caps off, adjustments can be made with your fingers, with no special tools or coins necessary.

The parallax and magnification adjustments have a bit of a longer throw than other scopes in the same price bracket. This is actually a good thing. What this indicates is finer internal gearing, which means more precise adjustments can be made. The movement of these parts is also smooth, but resistant enough to the point where you don’t have to worry about unintentional movement.


The optical quality is really what most people get giddy about when choosing a new scope, although I’d maintain that mechanical quality is just as important.

In my experience there are two major indicators of optical quality in a scope. The first (and most obvious) is light transmission. Is the scope clear, bright and easy to use? The answer in this case is yes. The second, and certainly equal, indicator of quality materials and craftsmanship is the ability of a high-magnification scope to continue to provide optimal light transmission at the high end of its zoom range.

In other words, if I were hiking around the back country with the magnification set around 10 for medium-range shots, but then decided to take a longer range shot requiring all 20x zoom power – at dusk – could I expect the same level of optical clarity?

Many competitor scopes at this level – and certainly the cheap no-name brand scopes on TradeMe – start to get murky towards the end of their range. I had a 6-24x power scope that I realistically couldn’t use beyond 18 or 20 without losing too much light. I’ve also owned an 8-32x scope that may as well have been an 8-24x for all the use the upper range was.

It may be a hunting scope, but it's perfectly at home on this rimfire rifle.
It may be a hunting scope, but it’s perfectly at home on this rimfire rifle, along with the aftermarket Boyds stock.

I’ve glassed tree-lined creek beds with this scope in failing light at maximum zoom, and also used it at maximum zoom at an indoor target range, and in both situations found the light transmission to be excellent. So much so that I would be confident in saying I could use the full potential of this scope, and not just stick to the lower ranges.

Specified use

Of course, how you intend to use any particular scope is up to you. However, certain optics are created with particular uses in mind. According to Weaver’s website, the primary use for the 40/44 in 6.5-20×44 with Dual-X reticle is as a large game hunting setup.

The 6.5-20x version of this scope comes with three reticle options – the Dual-X, Ballistic-X and Varminter. All are variations on the duplex reticle and the use for hunting is readily apparent. The thick posts draw your eye naturally to the finer crosshair in the centre, making for quick target acquisition.

The Ballistic-X version has some elevation holdover hashes for those who prefer to holdover rather than adjust their turrets – useful for shooting on the move, rather than from a prone position. The Varminter crosshair features a round dot in the middle of the reticle to form a natural point of focus for the eye.

If you choose the Dual-X (like I have) or the Varminter, you’ll likely be making elevation adjustments in the field. Using a ‘cheat sheet’ calculator, you can quickly figure out what adjustments you need to make and have these on a card taped to your rifle for quick reference. Alternatively, some time at a range with multiple distance options can help you figure out exactly what your load/rifle/optic combination requires.

Thankfully the 40/44 is designed with quick adjustments like these in mind. After removing the turret caps, you’ll notice the turret markings are easily visible from the shooter’s position.

The turret adjustments are easily seen from the shooter's position.
The turret adjustments are easily seen from the shooter’s position.

The ocular bell is also quite compact, which has multiple benefits. It’s easier to see past when making turret adjustments for starters. But more importantly it means more clearance between the bolt handle and the scope. This makes for easier mounting on older rifles, as well as convenient use with gloves when you’re in the mountains.

Overall impressions

It’s easy to see how this scope could be favoured by hunters the world over. It’s not a Super Slam, but for the budget-conscious shooter or the back-up rifle, it’s great value for money with many of the same features as the more expensive scopes. It’s no surprise that it’s a ‘best rated’ product on Optics Planet.

The ruggedness and mechanical reliability means a lifetime of use, while the optical clarity makes it perfect the times of day you really expect to be hunting in New Zealand. The uncomplicated reticle and ease of adjustment makes for more confident shooting in the field too.

While this scope was originally mounted on a .243 Winchester for hunting use, it’s found a new home on my bolt action .22LR along with a Boyds Pro Varmint stock for target shooting. While it may seem a strange application, indoor smallbore target shooting involves known distances without wind variation, making the simple reticle ideal. The high level of magnification also means precise shooting and knowing what your score is before you leave the mound. The large objective lens also means plenty of visibility indoors under artificial lighting. Lastly, the adjustable objective means you can shoot at high magnification at ranges as close as 25 yards.

But, as I mentioned at the beginning of this article, this scope could sit on almost any of my rifles and be fit for purpose. It could go on my 6.5×55 and be used for F-Class, or thrown onto my 7mm-08 for a light, bush-ready rig. Like I said at the start, it’s a good problem to have!

Bullet selection for hunting this roar

For many young girls and guys around the country, this roar will be their first opportunity to hunt – or at least to hunt some of the more prized species New Zealand has to offer in their prime coats and colours. While a shooter may be proficient with their weapon of choice, this does not automatically make them a good hunter.

Aside from the bushcraft, fitness and stalking involved – not to mention antler-induced-excitement behind the trigger – a serious consideration is the choice of ammunition. Fortunately for those shooting a more common calibre, there is plenty of off-the-shelf ammo that will do the trick. If you don’t intend to shoot much aside from sighting in and hunting, then buying ammo makes much more sense than reloading.

Bullet choice in New Zealand

Some common hunting calibres in New Zealand include .308, .303, .223, 6.5×55, 7mm-08, .243, .270, .260 and .30-06. To a limited extent the old Russian military calibres see some use (7.62×39 on goats or yearlings at close range or 7.62x54R if you’re running around with a sporterised Mosin-Nagant). And .300 BLK is becoming quite popular for goat culling or in short-range (but fancy) bush guns.

If you’re buying ammo for more common calibres like .308 or 7mm-08, your store owner’s recommendation will likely be good enough. Remington Core-LOKT and Winchester Power-Point are popular choices, and Hornady Whitetail does very well in most modern bolt actions too. However, for reloaders who have been chasing accuracy, bullet choice can change the game completely.

Some of the more common 7mm-08 hunting choices.
Some of the more common 7mm-08 hunting choices.

For example, with my 6.5×55 a 142 gr SMK or 140 gr AMAX does a beautiful group at 100 yards. In fact, my new favourite is Norma-Sierra 144 gr – it’s a factory load, but I can’t seem to beat it with the projectiles I have on hand. However, all of these loads have hit-and-miss performance on game. The AMAX less so, but certainly the SMKs are not meant for hunting. They have erratic terminal performance, sometimes yawing and producing massive wounds, sometimes producing pinhole wounds that can lead to inhumane kills and extended tracking of wounded animals.

But isn’t the Sierra Match King a hollow point? Yes it is, however the HP in this projectile is not designed for expansion on game. This hollow section in the bullet is to keep weight to the rear of the bullet, stabilizing it in flight and making it a more accurate round.

The SMK looks great on paper but does not produce consistent wounds.
The SMK looks great on paper but does not produce consistent wounds.

Factors like this need to be considered carefully, especially in calibres with higher sectional density, which can lead to deep penetration, but poor expansion if bullet choice is incorrect. This can be prominent in the 6mm and 7mm calibres.

If you’re about to start working up your hunting load for this year’s roar and do some quick sighting in, there are a few ways you can narrow down your bullet selection. You could start by checking out the forums or facebook pages and seeing what others with your rifle/calibre have been using. Or you could start by doing some research on sites like Nathan Foster’s Terminal Ballistics, or checking out the projectile manufacturer’s website. If you are the type to learn better by doing rather than reading, try a sampler pack from Gunworks to get a few different projectiles through your rifle and find its sweet spot.

Mossberg 100 ATR 7mm-08 Review

The Mossberg 100 ATR gets its initials from the phrase ‘All Terrain Rifle’. To be honest, if that’s what you’re after, this fits the bill. An inexpensive rifle that is rough and ready, but with a couple features that do stand out, the ATR is not a glamorous 1000-yard shooter, but a simple hunting tool.

Affordability is…

I do a fair bit of reading and research when it comes to shooting, and I remember one thought that really stood out when reading on barrel metallurgy. While steel prices have increased noticeably over the last decade, rifle prices have remained relatively static. So, if the cost of raw material is increasing, how are prices not rising accordingly?

This can be partly answered with advances in manufacturing techniques and the use of polymers and synthetics in place of wood and other expensive materials. However, it can’t be ignored that even some of the most expensive rifles show a bit more roughness around the edges compared to their 80’s or 90’s ancestors.

Opening up the Mossberg box for the first time was a mixture of anticipation and nerves - how good would this rifle be?
Opening up the Mossberg box for the first time was a mixture of anticipation and nerves – how good would this rifle be?

Mass production has resulted in cheaper rifles, while some advances in tooling, assembly and technique have resulted in relatively consistent levels of accuracy.

The Mossberg ATR is the ultimate expression of these cost-saving measures. It has the features you want, and some extras that you’ll enjoy – but it does feel cheap.

On the plus side

Undeniably, the most positive thing about this rifle is its price point. It’s affordable enough for the beginner hunter to make their way into the sport, and even cheap enough for the seasoned shooter to justify buying one just to try a different calibre out.

The ATR has been around for a fair few years, and has been supplanted in the States by the Patriot series of rifles – which seems to be a step up from the old ATR. However, with quite a bit of stock floating around New Zealand, there are still plenty of brand new rifles and packages floating around. You can expect to get a rifle for around $600 – $700, and packages including mounting system, rings, a scope and possibly a couple extras for between $700 and $900. A few good examples are here, here and here.

Features abound

The half cock and side safety are features which will excite some.
The half cock and side safety are features which will excite some.

Working in its favour, the Mossberg has a few features that you would expect to see on a more expensive firearm. Some that immediately spring to mind are the easily adjustable trigger, half cock on the bolt, side safety, a slick feeding action and fluting on the barrel.

  • LBA – Lightning Bolt Action – trigger system. The trigger on the ATR is fully adjustable, down to a mere 2 pounds. I found the 3 pound trigger pull from the factory to be light enough, especially for a hunting rifle, and even let one round off a bit too soon, as I expected more resistance from such a stock-standard rifle. Similar in appearance to the Savage Accutrigger, the LBA has a a thin piece of steel that nestles into the centre of the trigger. It’s pretty light and wiggly, but behind that is a rock solid single-stage trigger. The effect is similar to a two-stage trigger as the blade locks up the sear until fully depressed.
  • The half cock feature is something that a lot of hunters like. it allows you to be chambered and ready to go, with a simple push down on the bolt when you sight your prey. I personally prefer a bolt closed on an empty chamber, but the half cock is undeniably popular. The side-safety is easily reachable and operable, without shifting from your shooting position. You can easily manipulate it with the thumb of your shooting hand, but again, this isn’t something that is make-or-break for me.
  • The action is smooth as butter. In fact, probably one of the smoothest bolt actions in my safe. With two locking lugs and only a negligible bit of wobble when it travels, the bolt is well balanced. It’s a push-feed (as are most modern rifles), and picks up its rounds easily enough. I would buy this rifle all over again simply because it is so easy to work and feed.
  • The fluting on the barrel is a nice touch, and makes the rifle appear a bit more classy than its price tag would indicate. Aside from that, I can’t see much use for it. The weight saving couldn’t be too much, given it’s only have the barrel. And to be honest, this rifle could use a tiny bit more weight to absorb some recoil. However, it does make you feel less cheap when you’re at the range sighting in next to a Howa or a Remmy 700.
  • Already equipped with Weaver-style bases, the rifle is ready to mount your favourite scope too. It seems the bases are loctited too, as after over 50 rounds, these didn’t work loose. It’s also worth pointing out that the drop on the stock is pretty near perfect, lining you up nicely with a low-mounted scope.

It’s not all candy floss and daisies

It would be great to say we’ve found the cheapest, bestest rifle in the world. But you know how it goes. Cheap, accurate, reliable – choose two.

There are some aspects to the rifle that don’t float my boat, but at the incredibly low price, these are things I can generally handle. This rifle will end up being a good short-range (100 – 300 yards) shooter, for taking out goats, pigs or deer that present themselves nicely. It won’t be my go-to rifle, nor will it be my trusty long-range shooter.

Here are some of the detractors, which limit the rifle’s appeal in my opinion. Some of these are down to cheaper manufacturing, and can be expected.

  • It’s noisy. The ATR has a flimsy plastic stock that is hollow. If you knock the butt of the rifle, it lets out a hollow clunk. When you close the bolt you can hear it riding over the plastic follower and the bolt handle lets out another hollow-sounding tone when closed against the side of the stock.
  • The floor metal is… plastic. If you go for the walnut stock, you’ll get proper floor metal. However, the synthetic version comes with plastic moulded sling mounts, trigger guard and blind-magazine floor plate, I say floor plate, but it is completely sealed and inaccessible from the bottom of the rifle. This will all limit your ability to swap out the stock at a later date (without buying floor metal), and may interfere with some mounted accessories, such as bipods.
  • The recoil is dramatic. The 7mm-08 is not known to be a heavy recoiling round, however, with no mass to absorb the backward motion of the action, most of that recoil is going straight into your shoulder. Even with the inch-thick recoil pad equipped, there was noticeable kick. I did have a light grip on the fore of the rifle on the first shot I took, and after copping a scope to the face, I quickly tightened up my grip to arrest the rearward motion of the firearm. The walnut stocked version will probably deal with this recoil more appropriately.
  • The look of it. To be honest, it’s not that bad, and as mentioned above, the fluted barrel helps in the looks department. However, the obnoxious Mossberg branding on the bolt looks like lipstick on a pig. Without it, it would look like a good, basic rifle. Rather than a tarted-up cheapy.
The Mossberg's floor metal - or lack thereof.
The Mossberg’s floor metal – or lack thereof.

Accuracy and the deal-breaker

I decided to test this basic hunting rifle with basic hunting loads. A week ago I took a drive down to Waiuku Pistol Club and spent some time on the 100 yard range testing out the following cartridges:

  • Winchester 140 gr Super-X Power Point
  • Remington 140 gr Express Core-Lokt
  • Highland AX 140 gr SPBT
  • Hornady 139 gr American Whitetail

I have read a few other reviews on this rifle, and note that one reviewer achieved sub-minute groups with some expensive ammo, while another was happy enough with his 2+ MOA groups.

A good sampling of 7mm-08 hunting ammo was used for breaking in and sighting in.
A good sampling of 7mm-08 hunting ammo was used for breaking in and sighting in.

This is the realm my rifle was printing in. The average group size across all four brands (3-shot groups) was 2.53 MOA. Surprisingly, the budget brand Highland AX achieved the best groups, just over 2 MOA, while Winchester (favoured by many 7mm-08 shooters) achieved just under 3 MOA.

At the end of the day, a 2 or 3 MOA rifle at this price is about what you would expect, and is still delivering consistent kill shots out to 300 yards (if you’re using a load closer to the 2 MOA range).

And I could forgive many aspects of this rifle’s construction if it ended there. The very tilty magazine follower, the hollow stock, the spartan looks and short length-of-pull.

All of this could be forgiven, if the barrel fouled a little during break in.

Barrel with no fouling

I know breaking in a rifle barrel is an oft-debated topic, but here it is, I do practice barrel break-in, especially for cheaper rifles, which stand to gain the most from a bit of polishing in the bore to relieve some rough machining. The process I use has nothing to do with achieving X amount of shots, cleaning in between each Y amount of shots. Rather, I take a similar approach to what Nathan Foster describes here. Visually inspecting for copper fouling, and masking sure you are getting a nice, slow build up, which will help maintain accuracy over a decent amount of shots, before fouling becomes excessive.

Two things that can indicate poor barrel manufacturing are excessive fouling after each shot, or no fouling at all. The latter is what I experienced with the ATR. After putting through 51 rounds, not a single trace of copper was seen. Plenty of powder residue, but no hint of the lands hugging the bullet enough to produce some slight copper swaging.

What does this mean? The bore is slightly over-sized. So slight, almost imperceptible. But it makes a massive difference. This barrel will never achieve a sweet spot after a few fouling rounds. The first clean shot will always be the best, and it will only go downhill from there until it is cleaned. Not only this, but the wear on the lands will mean that it has a greatly reduced barrel life, maybe 5 – 20% of what you would expect from your average barrel.

I’m certainly not saying that every ATR is like this. I am saying that this one is. While yours may be great, mine is a shocker. It will be good enough for casual goat hunts, where you might be using between 2 and 10 rounds in a trip. It will probably be good enough for at least a dozen or so trips like this. However, after this, the gun will rapidly start to lose accuracy and usefulness. Not having an action worth re-barrelling, in a few years, this particular rifle will not be worth much at all. However, given the price I paid for it, I feel like I will have achieved sufficient use out of this firearm in that time to justify the expense (and then some).

It’s also been a treat to be able to buy a cheap rifle simply to try out the 7mm-08 calibre. A more thorough review of the ammo used will be coming up soon.

Final thoughts?

If you want a cheap shooter in a new calibre, something to throw on the quad to take around the farm, or an inexpensive bush gun that can take some knocks, the All Terrain Rifle lives up to its name. If you’re under any allusions as to buying cheap and shooting 1/3 MOA groups all day, think again. You may luck out and get a great barrel, you may not.

At the end of the day, the rifle is worth every cent you pay for it, and a little bit more.