Umm… Hey Buddy

by Gerry McKownMcKown

(You may recall a couple of weeks ago I asked if anyone wanted to contribute articles for Guns and Gunsmiths. I received this great story very quickly, as well as a couple of others. Thanks guys! If anyone else want to do the same please send me an email–Gary Howes, editor).

Umm… hey buddy, can I give you a hand?

You see some amazing things at the gun range. I am lucky enough to be a member of a nice little 100 yard gun club not 15 minutes from my home in Southeastern PA. I like to rebuild military surplus rifles, accurize bolt action rifles, but my favorite thing to do is take inexpensive firearms and make them shoot great.

Last week at the range I was sighting in a new scope while testing out a few reloads in my .308 bolt gun. A friendly looking young couple sat down at the bench next to me (there are only 2, did I mention small club?) After a few minutes of them setting up I could hear the unmistakable sound of the slide dropping on an AR bolt, then silence, birds chirping, and click, click, CLICK followed by a good helping of goshdarnrazzafrazanogood!

Next was a hushed “Honey, what’s wrong with it?” and the obvious reply “Would you gimme a minute!” Now, I like to give people their space, but in the spirit of a nosey neighbor I had to take a glance over somehow. So, by executing an almost perfect “yawn and swing the arm around your date at the movies move” I glanced over to see the dude sitting down with one foot on the rear of the buttstock, and both hands grappling with the charging handle. Picture a cowboy putting on boots that are too small.

When the wife glanced over at me with a “by God please help my insane husband” kind of expression, all I could think to say is the title, “Umm… hey buddy, can I give you a hand?” Please. Now, being a dude myself, you never know how another dude is going to react to the offer of help in front of his girl. By the guy code he has every right to punch me in the face, and all I could do is reply “yea, I had that coming.” But, he was a sensible non-violent kind of dude, and let me take a look at his new unfired AR which was jammed going into battery.

First things first, safety! Eyes, ears, safe muzzle direction, and let me see the ammo you are using. “Oh” he replied, “My friend did some reloads and told me they were going to be excellent in my new AR.”  Hmmf friends! My reply was “I bet you friends gun is a bolt action? Yup? Well, we have a head space issue with the .223 resizing die, and your friend not using the small base die needed for the AR platform.”

UntitledSO, I grabbed my range bag tool kit and with a gentle “Mortar-ing” of the new black rifle, the round popped out and I explained what happened. Luckily they had a box of factory ammo that ran perfectly, and they didn’t seem too dejected with the whole situation. So, I think the moral of the story is you can help another dude and not get punched! Oh yea that, and be VERY careful shooting another “friends” reloads.

Have fun,


Gerry is located in Gilbertsville PA, a farming suburb northwest of Philly. He is a Master Plumber and would like to be a full fledged gun smith in the future. Currently he has a C&R FFL03 license and his passion is reloading and building all kinds of rifles from AR’s to Milsurp bolt guns. Most of his shooting is punching holes in paper as far away as he can find a target with his rifle scope. 

11 Responses to Umm… Hey Buddy

  1. Great to see a new fellow writer! … Welcome Gerry!

    Loved the article – refreshing, very humorous and well written!

    Good catch on the ammo/reloading issue Gerry!

    Thanks for the article and please keep’em coming! Cheers,

    Dana in Canada

  2. I had that same problem with a personal build on an AR for my son. We took it out for the first rounds using my reloads and every few rounds wouldn’t go to battery and jam. I also had my Rock River with a Wylde chamber that cycled fine with the ammo. I was thinking it was something about the build trying to figure it out. It was a frustrating afternoon of sighting in his rifle and occasional prying open the action. When I returned home I pulled out the OAL gauge and found even though I was using the small base dies, I didn’t have the sizing die positioned to push the shoulder back to specification and the OAL was at the max and out of specification on a few. I pulled the bullets, resized the brass to specification and bingo, the new rifle cycles great. Another lesson learned.

  3. Yeah, as a gunsmith AND reloader, I’ve seen a lot of this with semiauto rifles, and if you think .223 is bad, a .308 (AR-10 platform) is even fussier about ammo sizing. Had a Remington R-25 that would shoot factory ammo all day long but didn’t seem to like any reloads, even those done with small-base dies. Finally figured out that it was the shoulder push-back issue, but by then I had gotten so tired of chasing the problem that I sold the gun. Oh… and for you reloaders, if you haven’t used small-base dies before, be REALLY careful about lubing cases for resizing. Stuck cases in the reloading die are even less fun than stuck cases in the gun.

  4. This problem is also common with brass loaded to many times and separates leaving the forward part of the case in the chamber for your next round to lock up tight into. A round brass drift and a light weight Ball peen hammer is a good addition to your shooting bag. Keeping the muzzle in a safe position remove the upper receiver from the lower receiver and using the brass drift at the rear of the bolt carrier slot tap the drift to the rear until the bolt opens.
    The odds are the case will remain stuck in the chamber. If you don’t have a headless shell extractor push a slotted tip cleaning rod through the bore from the rear. At the muzzle place a cleaning patch in the slot and pull to the rear. This will usually pull the case from the chamber.

  5. I reload for several caliber, i.e., 38/357, 44, 45 ACP, 30-06, and 300 SVG. Most of my resizing dies are RCBS, and I had them for nearly 40 years. I also have several 5.56/223 and one 223 Wylde on AR platforms. However, because ammo is reasonably inexpensive I do NOT reload in this Caliber. I’ve never hear the term “small base die”. Can someone explain and provide an illustration of a STD and small base die?

  6. The Brownell site lacked an explaination, however I got the answer surfing the web. I was looking for a physical description difference. Most cases that are full length sized do so down to where the case head gets too thick to effectively resize. An illustration showing the difference would help me understand the where the differences are. Thanks for your effort. If and when I decide to reload for 223 I will likely get std dies and only purchase small base sizing die if it becomes an issue with any one of my weapons. But, this has been a great learning topic.

    • If you are really interested in reloading and want to learn more, the AGI course “Reloading from A to Z” with Fred Zeglin is fantastic. AGI had this on sale last week as part of their “10 Day Cabin Fever” offer at a super-low price, but that has passed. A little bird told me that ALL of their Cabin Fever specials will be available again for one day only next Friday. There is a link to the sale on Guns and Gunsmiths.

  7. I nearly order this video when it was first offered. I’ve been reloading for nearly 45 years, and the process was taught to me from an older gentlemen; starting with an old Lee (nut cracker) using an old trimmed 38 special case to dip 2400 power w/o the benefit of a scale. I eventually invested in a CH and RCBS JR press, dies, power thrower, scale, and a host of dies. However, sometimes we are taught practices that others have improved upon, and we are never too old to learn, or be corrected. I will order this video if in my old age I can remember to look for the next sales opportunity. Again; great topic.

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