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Unread 11-07-2013, 08:34 AM   #1
mike_dippert
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I AR dummy

I've probably read the answer without knowing it. I've only held and shot an AR once, so I'm unbelievably ignorant on the construction of them. I know you can swap parts around for different calibers with varying degrees of expense and effort.

I'd like to be chambered for 22LR, 5.56, 300AAC, and .308. Bonus points for 9mm and 45ACP b/c I already own those calibers in pistols. I want to leave my uppers dedicated to one caliber. I have no issues owning 4-6 complete uppers and just one lower.

Besides just pulling two pins and swapping complete uppers around, what else needs to be done? Most of what I read involves swapping parts within the same upper. The rest I don't quite understand.

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Unread 11-07-2013, 09:47 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mike_dippert View Post
I've probably read the answer without knowing it. I've only held and shot an AR once, so I'm unbelievably ignorant on the construction of them. I know you can swap parts around for different calibers with varying degrees of expense and effort.

I'd like to be chambered for 22LR, 5.56, 300AAC, and .308. Bonus points for 9mm and 45ACP b/c I already own those calibers in pistols. I want to leave my uppers dedicated to one caliber. I have no issues owning 4-6 complete uppers and just one lower.

Besides just pulling two pins and swapping complete uppers around, what else needs to be done? Most of what I read involves swapping parts within the same upper. The rest I don't quite understand.
pretty much just pull the pins to swap. although the buffer and spring may need to be swapped as well, different guns in different calibers like different buffers, you need to experiment to figure out what works for your setup.

Its recommended not to swap bolt carrier groups between uppers, 5.56 and .300aac are the only ones you listed you could physically do this with anyways.

.308 will require its own lower, the 5.56 lower is to small. although Colt (IIRC) now makes a AR based system that will work both out of the same lower, it looks strange and is proprietary so you'd be pretty much stuck with Colts special uppers only.

Do you plan on getting the lower SBR-ed? 9mm, .45, and .300blk are a bit of a waste in 16in barrels. .300aac for example is designed to burn all of its powder by the 8-9in mark, any barrel beyond that is for people who dont want to (or cant) deal with the NFA laws.

The 22lr and 5.56 upper can be the same one with a drop-in conversion. the barrel twist rate will be wrong for .22lr so accuracy will be effected, but depending on what you plan to do with .22 it may be just fine. if you go the dedicated .22 route, you actually dont need the AR's buffer recoil system at all.

the pistol calibers will require a mag block, its a chunk of plastic the drops into the 5.56 magwell and reduces it down to accept the 9mm and .45 magazines. 9mm (and i think .45 too) is recommended to use a non-standard hammer, i dont know too much about it, but changing the hammer out every time you swapped uppers would be a pain.

Also, i know you plan on buying one lower, but you'll end up with one for each upper sooner or later, building them is pretty easy as well. takes about 30 min. and basic tools. if you can take apart and reassemble a clicky pen then you can build a AR lower.
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Unread 11-07-2013, 01:36 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by chriskeenan View Post

pretty much just pull the pins to swap. although the buffer and spring may need to be swapped as well, different guns in different calibers like different buffers, you need to experiment to figure out what works for your setup.

Its recommended not to swap bolt carrier groups between uppers, 5.56 and .300aac are the only ones you listed you could physically do this with anyways.

.308 will require its own lower, the 5.56 lower is to small. although Colt (IIRC) now makes a AR based system that will work both out of the same lower, it looks strange and is proprietary so you'd be pretty much stuck with Colts special uppers only.

Do you plan on getting the lower SBR-ed? 9mm, .45, and .300blk are a bit of a waste in 16in barrels. .300aac for example is designed to burn all of its powder by the 8-9in mark, any barrel beyond that is for people who dont want to (or cant) deal with the NFA laws.

The 22lr and 5.56 upper can be the same one with a drop-in conversion. the barrel twist rate will be wrong for .22lr so accuracy will be effected, but depending on what you plan to do with .22 it may be just fine. if you go the dedicated .22 route, you actually dont need the AR's buffer recoil system at all.

the pistol calibers will require a mag block, its a chunk of plastic the drops into the 5.56 magwell and reduces it down to accept the 9mm and .45 magazines. 9mm (and i think .45 too) is recommended to use a non-standard hammer, i dont know too much about it, but changing the hammer out every time you swapped uppers would be a pain.

Also, i know you plan on buying one lower, but you'll end up with one for each upper sooner or later, building them is pretty easy as well. takes about 30 min. and basic tools. if you can take apart and reassemble a clicky pen then you can build a AR lower.
By not swapping BCG's, you mean keep the bolt and upper together? I've read some swap bolts with bbls, others use the same bolt. But that was within one upper, like going from 5.56 to 300blk with just a bbl swap.

I don't hunt so everything I own would be for target shooting and defense. 200yds is the longest range nearby. Im tired of plinking the 50yd range with a loose 10/22. The 9/45 would be for ****s and giggles b/c I have those in pistols already. I'm eventually going to get a Trust for NFA items, SBR lower will come at that time. A .308 700 is in my future, that's the only reason for that option in an AR. I'll just get an AR10 if I REALLY want it. 22lr will probably get the most time followed by 556/223. The 300blk just looks like an interesting round. The 30 cal supressor I'll have for the .308 would make the 300blk a nice quiet range or homestead rifle.

I know I'll want more lowers. I'm just thinking maximum versatility. I'd like to avoid assigned seating for my uppers.
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Unread 11-07-2013, 02:25 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by mike_dippert View Post
By not swapping BCG's, you mean keep the bolt and upper together? I've read some swap bolts with bbls, others use the same bolt. But that was within one upper, like going from 5.56 to 300blk with just a bbl swap.

I don't hunt so everything I own would be for target shooting and defense. 200yds is the longest range nearby. Im tired of plinking the 50yd range with a loose 10/22. The 9/45 would be for ****s and giggles b/c I have those in pistols already. I'm eventually going to get a Trust for NFA items, SBR lower will come at that time. A .308 700 is in my future, that's the only reason for that option in an AR. I'll just get an AR10 if I REALLY want it. 22lr will probably get the most time followed by 556/223. The 300blk just looks like an interesting round. The 30 cal supressor I'll have for the .308 would make the 300blk a nice quiet range or homestead rifle.

I know I'll want more lowers. I'm just thinking maximum versatility. I'd like to avoid assigned seating for my uppers.
Just keep the same bolt with the same barrel, over time they'll wear in together. pulling the 5.56 bolt after a few thousand rounds and putting it into the 300aac will get stange wear patterns. Its not a huge issue, people do it all the time, but there is speculation that it accelerates bolt failures.

Also, if you want to, build a 300aac pistol AR. Its the same thing as the normal ar but has NEVER had a stock attached to that lower. Get whatever barrel length you want, put the suppressor on it, and then once you get NFA done attach the stock. You'll have plenty of time to adjust buffer weights and gas ports while you wait.
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Unread 01-08-2014, 07:33 PM   #5
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How much have you shot the .223/5.56? You say you don't hunt, so you don't need a larger caliber for that reason. I think you might be surprised how much you can get out of that round (or rather, several types of rounds) with different bullet weights etc. You should fire it for a good long while before you decide to get the larger calibers. You may still want more options but you might not. The 7.62 is a bit much for most purposes that don't involve big game or hostile soldiers ... including more than a bit much for high volume plinking or your wallet! There are lots of people who find (gun store advice notwithstanding) that a .22 and an AR clone is all the rifles they ever need.

Agreed on using one lower (except of course 7.62 NATO won't fit - the magwell on the standard AR is just too small). Don't skimp on quality then, since you are likely to put it through a lot of abuse if multiple uppers is your plan.

My RRA Standard A4 upper with a stainless 1:8 barrel makes .55"/100yd groups with Winchester Ballistic Silvertip 55s, and similar results with a few similar Remington factory rounds, and 1.2" with PMC Bronze cheapo ammo. Plenty accurate with heavier rounds, and plenty accurate with superlight varmint rounds (1:8 is the most versatile twist rate). Read up on twist, barrel material, length, and weight, and you might end up with a gun that comes close to doing it all for you.
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Unread 01-09-2014, 07:35 AM   #6
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With my current experience, I'd be ecstatic getting consistent 1MOA @ 100yds with match ammo. But I'd like a gun capable of 1MOA @ 200yds. It's hard finding a range over 300yd anywhere close. The 200yd range is an hour away.

I'll do my .223 bbl homework and get good with that before buying other calibers.

I'm thinking a complete CMMG in 5.56 and eventually 22lr upper. I know .223 in a 5.56 gun is less accurate, but the gun will be better than my skill for quite a while at current ammo prices.
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JF taught me that the 2.5L, Ax-5 and D35 together are so powerful that angels weep when I shift into 4LO.
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Unread 01-09-2014, 07:59 AM   #7
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Yes, 1 MOA is hard to get with chrome lined barrels but chrome is far more durable, particularly for rapid fire. Unlined requires more attention to cleaning. Stainless is close to the best of both worlds but is more expensive and doesn't like rapid fire. So, like everywhere else in life, you need to decide which is best for your use and what compromise is best, or pay through the nose for the perfect thing. Chrome lined match rifles are available but they will really set you back. I need accuracy on a budget for varmints and I don't need rapid fire, so the RRA stainless fits me. That's what RRA specializes in so look there, among others, if that is your need for an upper.

Also test different rounds, I bought 20-odd different boxes to test and my rifle only "liked" three in terms of accuracy. It hates Hornady V Max, which everyone claims is a really accurate bullet - I can't get better than 1.2 with those, and often more like 1.6 depending on the loading behind the 55s. Same story with every round heavier than 62. And it is minute of elephant with some 45s (seriously, 5 inch groups). Have you experimented like that?
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Unread 01-09-2014, 05:46 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by mike_dippert View Post
With my current experience, I'd be ecstatic getting consistent 1MOA @ 100yds with match ammo. But I'd like a gun capable of 1MOA @ 200yds. It's hard finding a range over 300yd anywhere close. The 200yd range is an hour away.

I'll do my .223 bbl homework and get good with that before buying other calibers.

I'm thinking a complete CMMG in 5.56 and eventually 22lr upper. I know .223 in a 5.56 gun is less accurate, but the gun will be better than my skill for quite a while at current ammo prices.
Not in any of my AR's. You should learn to reload. That is where the accuracy will come in to play. Much cheaper too.
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Unread 01-09-2014, 05:51 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by FarmerinVA View Post
Yes, 1 MOA is hard to get with chrome lined barrels but chrome is far more durable, particularly for rapid fire. Unlined requires more attention to cleaning. Stainless is close to the best of both worlds but is more expensive and doesn't like rapid fire. So, like everywhere else in life, you need to decide which is best for your use and what compromise is best, or pay through the nose for the perfect thing. Chrome lined match rifles are available but they will really set you back. I need accuracy on a budget for varmints and I don't need rapid fire, so the RRA stainless fits me. That's what RRA specializes in so look there, among others, if that is your need for an upper.

Also test different rounds, I bought 20-odd different boxes to test and my rifle only "liked" three in terms of accuracy. It hates Hornady V Max, which everyone claims is a really accurate bullet - I can't get better than 1.2 with those, and often more like 1.6 depending on the loading behind the 55s. Same story with every round heavier than 62. And it is minute of elephant with some 45s (seriously, 5 inch groups). Have you experimented like that?
What twist rate are you using?

Bullets must have enough spin (RPM) when leaving the bore in order to fly true. Remember bullets begin to slow down (in RPM and velocity) from the moment they leave the bore so they must have enough spin from the start so that they remain spinning enough to fly true over the course of their trajectory otherwise if they arent spinning enough they will start to wobble off course which can result in a complete miss. (Remember misses are bad.)

Barrel twist rates are calculated using the caliber of the bullet and it's length. Most think in terms of weight of the bullet that determines twist rate but it is really the length. And in general terms the longer the bullet given the same caliber the more it will weigh but the truth is you could have two bullets that weigh the exact same amount but if one has an aluminum core it will be longer than the one with a lead core so the lighter bullet BECAUSE it is longer will require a tighter twist rate than the heavier/shorter one will.

The M16 started off with a 1x14 twist which is enough to shoot 55 grain bullets as long as the temperature of the air was above freezing. If the temp was below freezing the air density was such that the 1x14 twist was too slow and the bullet lost its spin too fast resulting in misses.

So the military changed the rate to 1x12 which solved the problem.

Then comes along the SS109/M855 62 grain round which since it is a longer bullet (because it is heavier) requires a 1x10 to stabilize. Problem was the tracer ammo M856 is even longer than the ball round of the SS109/M855 ammo cause they packed it with enough tracer compound so the bullet would trace all the way out to 800 meters which it almost twice as far as the older tracer ammo that burnt out at around 450 meters. Consequently this newer tracer ammo is a LONG bullet and requires a 1x6 twist rate. So the military compromised on a 1x7 twist rate for the new ammo.

Shorter (which USUALLY means lighter) bullets can be fired in barrels with tighter twist rates than in necessary but longer (which USUALLY means heavier) bullets cannot be shot in barrel twist rates that are slower than what they need. So the most versatile barrel twist rate is one that is tighter as it will shoot all bullet lengths/weights.

An example of what happens when uses a longer/heavier bullet in a too slow twist rate is shooting a SS109/M855 62 grain bullet in a 1x12" twist barrel. What will happen is right around 100 meters the bullet has lost too many RPM's and will actually start flying end over end - with horrible accuracy. The bullet may strike "sideways" - which is called "key-holing" - leaving a sideways imprint of the bullet. Hitting a body with a "key-holing" bullet aint bad - the bad part is the bullet won't go where it was aimed - so you only hit with a "fluke". Since our goal is to hit when we are aiming at something - key-holing is BAD. MIssing is WAY TOO easy with bullets that fly true - missing is almost garaunteed with bullets that don't fly true.

Bushmaster which was really the first company to start building ARs in a big way looked at the available ammunition back in the 80s when they started and back then 62 grains was heavy for .223s. Well the 62 grain lead bullet only needs a 1x10 twist to stabilize and since some 68 and even 69 grain bullets were on the horizon they figured what the heck lets have our barrels be 1x9 twist. No one is going to be shooting heavier/longer bullets than 69 grains so 1x9 twist will be fine. Remember back then most bullet weights/lengths were in the 40-55 grain area.

Bushmaster soon became the leader in ARs and when more and more companies came on board they followed the leader and had their twist rates be 1x9 also which UNTIL the heavier bullets came along just a few years ago worked out just fine.

Now advance forward to just a few years ago when the war on terror started in earnest. The 62 grain bullet wasnt cutting the mustard. Due to different manufacturing techniques of bullet manufacturers some lots of the M855 wont fragment they way some other lots of M855 will and we all know that if the bullet doesnt fragment it doesnt work as well as when it does fragment. Also the range at which it will fragment is less than 200 meters. Couple this with the fact that the M855 bullet since it has a lead and steel core can NEVER be as accurate as a bullet that has an all lead core making distant sniper type shots a lot harder.

So SpecOps units started looking for a different bullet. (This is what started the ill fated attempt of the 6.8 SPC.) The military match shooters at the time were dominating the shooting matches using bullets that were 75-77 grains in weight. These bullets would allow our boys to make shots out to 600-700 meters with confidence of a hit cause they are extremely accurate bullets. What the SpecOps boys found out that in addition to being accurate these heavy bullets FRAGMENTED when they hit most water based mediums (bodies). And they fragmented with much more vigor than the 62 or even the 55 grain bullets cause since they were heavier/longer they had more material to fragment with! AND they are fragmenting at ranges far in excess of 200 meters.

These heavier bullets are doing such a good job that the 6.8 has since died on the vine.

So if one is getting a new AR or just a new barrel for SHTF purposes it would be my advice to a 1x7 twist barrel. The 1x7 twist will allow you to shoot ALL 55 grain ammo, 62 grain ammo and the 75 or 77 grain ammo. What you wont be able to shoot is the thin jacketed 40 grain ammo but no one would use that for SHTF purposes anyway! In other words you lose NOTHING by going to the 1x7 twist barrel but you GAIN the versatility of being able to use ANY fighting bullet made for the 5.56 family of firearms. So my question would be WHY LIMIT YOURSELF?? You may not have any of the 75 or 77 grain ammo - but why close the door on EVER using it?? Think in these terms - more and more LE units are moving to these rounds - the whole US military is looking at these rounds (because of the great success the SpecOps community is having with these rounds) - so this ammo is only going to be more prevalent as time goes on. DONT GET A NEW BARREL/UPPER that cant shoot these new rounds or you may live to regret it!

If your barrel has a 1x12" twist - you are limited to 55 grain max ammo.
If your barrel has a 1x9" twist - you can shoot either the 55 grain or 62 grain (actually up to 69 grains reliably)
If your barrel has a 1x7" twist - you can shoot the 55 grain, 62 grain, 75 and 77 grain - even all the way up to 80 grains reliably
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Unread 01-09-2014, 08:04 PM   #10
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Holy long post, batman. As mentioned in the previous post, 1:8 twist. I realize that everything you say is what is supposed to happen but I'm telling you, I've fired the rounds, and I don't get good (meaning 1 MOA or better) accuracy in the heavier bullets. They aren't keyholing or anything like that but they aren't tight. 55 grains and some in 62 is what the rifle likes. Since I bought this to be a varminter, that's fine by me. Barrel is 20 inches, by the way (I went for max velocity, not weight savings, and it is a bit heavy).

I hear tell that each rifle has its own personality about these things so ymmv.

EDIT: I should say, I would like to be disproven about my own rifle. Tell me some factory loads (I don't reload) above 62 grains that will group at 1 MOA with a 1:8 twist reliably, and I'll tell you whether I've tried them, or if not, and if you give me a few months, I'll buy them and I'll test them. If you turn out to be correct (and they are reasonably priced) I'll send you a box as a thank you. Seriously, that's a no risk offer for you. You sound like you have some experience with the subject.
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Unread 01-10-2014, 06:12 AM   #11
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Holy long post, batman. As mentioned in the previous post, 1:8 twist. I realize that everything you say is what is supposed to happen but I'm telling you, I've fired the rounds, and I don't get good (meaning 1 MOA or better) accuracy in the heavier bullets. They aren't keyholing or anything like that but they aren't tight. 55 grains and some in 62 is what the rifle likes. Since I bought this to be a varminter, that's fine by me. Barrel is 20 inches, by the way (I went for max velocity, not weight savings, and it is a bit heavy).

I hear tell that each rifle has its own personality about these things so ymmv.

EDIT: I should say, I would like to be disproven about my own rifle. Tell me some factory loads (I don't reload) above 62 grains that will group at 1 MOA with a 1:8 twist reliably, and I'll tell you whether I've tried them, or if not, and if you give me a few months, I'll buy them and I'll test them. If you turn out to be correct (and they are reasonably priced) I'll send you a box as a thank you. Seriously, that's a no risk offer for you. You sound like you have some experience with the subject.
Yes they do. I don't buy factory ammo, never really did. You can do so much better than factory, as it's a "generic" round. Accuracy is built into the barrel and hand loading fine tunes the round. I have several guns that are all the same model and caliber and none will shoot exactly the same. So I have containers of ammo for each gun instead of containers of the same caliber.

What type of weapon are you shooting? 1 MOA is not an unreasonable request.
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Unread 01-10-2014, 01:04 PM   #12
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Not in any of my AR's. You should learn to reload. That is where the accuracy will come in to play. Much cheaper too.
I reload my handgun rounds b/c of cost, when I can get components. Hard to find primers locally. I don't have the equipment to do rifle cases yet.
Do you reuse brass for the accuracy shots or only new? What bullets do you buy? I planned on doing boxed ammo too get some brass and check different bullets. Then reload some bullets from company's that don't sell complete rounds.

As for that book in the next post...I learned something new. A SHTF gun isn't at the top of my list, but it wouldn't hurt to have. For now, I'm mostly interested in +100yd target practice.
So you're saying the 70's grain .223 in a 1:7 bbl has the highest potential for accuracy? How does the tighter twist effect lighter bullets? Slower muzzle velocity, more drop? I understand not limiting myself (maximum versatility was my reason for this thread), but what is being compromised?
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JF taught me that the 2.5L, Ax-5 and D35 together are so powerful that angels weep when I shift into 4LO.
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The only thing a bicycle inner tube is good for, is tying a knot in the end of when you run out of condoms.
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Unread 01-10-2014, 01:37 PM   #13
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I reload my handgun rounds b/c of cost, when I can get components. Hard to find primers locally.
I know what you mean. Luckily it's not too bad around here anymore.
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Unread 01-10-2014, 01:44 PM   #14
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I know what you mean. Luckily it's not too bad around here anymore.
I added to that post, if you didnt notice already.
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JF taught me that the 2.5L, Ax-5 and D35 together are so powerful that angels weep when I shift into 4LO.
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The only thing a bicycle inner tube is good for, is tying a knot in the end of when you run out of condoms.
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Unread 01-10-2014, 04:39 PM   #15
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I reload my handgun rounds b/c of cost, when I can get components. Hard to find primers locally. I don't have the equipment to do rifle cases yet.
Do you reuse brass for the accuracy shots or only new? What bullets do you buy? I planned on doing boxed ammo too get some brass and check different bullets. Then reload some bullets from company's that don't sell complete rounds.

As for that book in the next post...I learned something new. A SHTF gun isn't at the top of my list, but it wouldn't hurt to have. For now, I'm mostly interested in +100yd target practice.
So you're saying the 70's grain .223 in a 1:7 bbl has the highest potential for accuracy? How does the tighter twist effect lighter bullets? Slower muzzle velocity, more drop? I understand not limiting myself (maximum versatility was my reason for this thread), but what is being compromised?
I'm sorry for the long winded response last post. So I will keep this one shorter.

Yes I reuse all my brass until they get out of spec. Auto rifles require a full length resize to function properly. Doing so stretches the round and the wall of the case become thinner and finally splits open. Bolt and lever action rifles only need to have the mouth and shoulders of the case resized. I keep the cases separate for the type of gun they will be used in.

I prefer Hornady bullets but sometimes use Sierra for accuracy shots but I cast my own lead bullets for just plinking and practice rounds. (Got to keep the trigger fingers tuned up). As far as cases go I only use boxer primed, as berdan cases are much harder to reload, but possible if converted to boxer.

A heaver/longer bullet would need a faster twist rate to keep it stable in flight, so a lighter/shorter bullet would not require such a fast twist. Using a lighter bullet with a fast twist rate would cause the bullet to become unstable and could literally come apart as it spinning to fast. Centrifugal force is what pulls it apart as there is not enough mass to hold it together.

So you really need to pick the bullet weight for the twist rate of the gun. While 1:7 is a good all around it's not optimal for a 55 grain bullet like a 1:9 would be.

In short, long range shooting would benefit a fast twist rate with a heavy round. Short range will like a lighter bullet coming out of a slower twist rate.
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