“The cure to what?”, may be the first question popping into the thoughts of TPF’s readers. In this case, it is the cure to the single most complained about, biggest headache for anyone who reloads rifle cartridges. Besides the tedious task of collecting range brass and cleaning it through various means, there are many steps to preparing a spent rifle case before ever assembling a new cartridge for use.
The Steps for reloading rifle cartridges:
- Collect spent cases: Go pick up your brass and if you are lucky, everyone elses!
- De-prime cases: Can be done after step #3 depending on cleaning methods and press types
- Clean cases: Degree of cleanliness is dependant on the reloader themselves. Wipe off, dry or wet tumble, ultrasonic cleaning?
- Size cases: Full or neck only sizing is another factor dependant on the reloader’s desires.
- Trimming brass: Cutting to length and possibly chamfering inside and outside of the case neck.
- Re-prime case: By hand or by press
- Powder charge: Check the type of powder, as well as the levels in the hopper/scoop. Also do not under or over charge the case!
- Bullet seating: Make sure your OAL allows proper feeding!
- Bullet crimping: If necessary and do not over crimp!
So the biggest headache? Step 5. Trimming…
Trimming is the simple procedure in cases preparation that involves the shaving of brass down to specifications for most calibres as set out by Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute, aka SAAMI. IF you perform step number 5, there are a huge number of methods available for an equally broad range of retail pricing. However the product on today’s TPF plate for reviewing is the Trim-It II.
Direct from the website the features of the Trim-It II are listed as:
- Built-in micrometer adjustment for cut-length control
- Interchangeable die system, allowing you to trim a wide range of cases with one unit
- Adjustable cutting tool with 3-sided carbide blade that allows for a 15 degree inside case mouth chamfer and 45 degree outside chamfer
- Machined from 6061-T6 Aluminum. This baby is built to last.
- 100% Forever (plus 90 days) Guarantee.
- Made entirely in the good ole’ US of A!
The Trim-It II that TPF obtained came is a small, compact cardboard package which contained everything needed to start trimming. OK. Almost everything… Like most reloading apparatuses, the basic unit does not come with the calibre specific components such as sizing dies and the like. This product is no different, and offers calibre specific bearing dies for many of the most common hunting calibres, pistol calibres, and some of the more popular long range benchrest calibres that are used.
The original Trim-It had a micrometer adjustable depth ability and a four bladed flush cutting head that did just that, trimmed cases to the user’s set length. The secret to both the Trim-It and the Trim-It II? The calibre bearing die. For this review, TPF-Online decided to use the ever popular .308 Winchester round for trimming. Having many, many hundreds on hand to be converted from fired brass condition into usable ammunition was just a stroke of luck as we would never just go out and discharge .308 Win by the scores just for reviewing a trimmer… OK, maybe we would… Alright… We did… And it was worth it! So lets start by explaining the components that you receive in the package when a Trim-It II is purchased… Plus the .308 Win Calibre Die.
- Instructions, 2 pages double sided
- Allen keys, 4 of varying sizes (0.050″, 1/16″, 3/32″, and 9/64″)
- The cap/barrel assembly
- 3-way cutter
- Calibre die, .308 WIN (sold separately)
These are likely the cheapest component of the entire set. Now these two pages seem to be simple double sided photocopies that are folded into 1/8 the original size to fit into the box. One page contains the product warranty details and a fillable sheet for returning defective/broken products. The other sheet is the one that is most important to everyone that is reading… A parts list and instructions on how to assemble, tune, and utilize the Trim-It II. The instructions for this are only on a single unfolded side and also contain the instructions for refitting the original Trim-It with the new 3-way cutting head. Opposite the instructions is a parts list diagram of both the Trim-It and Trim-It II.
The L-shaped hex drivers for adjustments and locking in components with set-screws. You knew this already however, so not going to say any more on these parts…
So the cap serves two purposes, both of which are important for the functionality of the Trim-It II. First is the mount for the 3-Way Cutter that is secured along the cap’s centreline with a set screw. This forces the cap to rotate with the cutter when under power. The second purpose is to act as the threaded mount for the barrel part of the assembly. The barrel houses the Calibre Die, and because it is threaded into the cap, allows for fine distance adjustment for cutting brass to the proper overall length. The barrel has numerous openings which allow adjustment to the cutting head as well as a path through which trimmed shavings can be removed. The barrel has an external o-ring groove which holds the clear polycarbonate sleeve in place to prevent shavings from flying everywhere when in use. A set screw locks the barrel depth into place as well as locking the calibre die into its groove.
The three way cutter is a miniature version of a milling machine’s adjustable boring bar. The cutter insert itself is a simple triangular insert whose corners have been cut to a V shape to trim both inner and outer chamfers and thereby also the length of any brass casing. TPF-Online did not remove the insert, but the V shape is on all three corners of the insert meaning that if you even wear down one of the cutting profiles, you can rotate and have a new cutting profile to be used. Twice… Since these are only trimming brass versus the insert’s carbide, it is likely to last for generations of shooters. The mounting head of the cutter is adjustable itself, with the insert able to be shifted towards or away from the centerline of the cap/barrel. This allows for different diameter necks to be trimmed, but unless you have several of the cutters pre-set, re-adjusting the cutter for each new calibre introduced is required.
These are sealed bearings that are modified by machining a custom inner ring to accurately position brass for trimming. These are precision tolerance bearings which are aligned by the barrel groove machined to exacting tolerances. with the outer ring of the die secured with a set screw in the barrel, the inner ring is free to rotate independently of the cap/barrel/cutter assembly.
How it works… Aka steps for using the Trim-It II:
- Install the 3-way cutter into the cap/barrel assembly so that it is as close as possible to the cap and secure with set screw against the flats in the shaft of the cutter.
- Tighten barrel into cap until it stops (“Zero”) back off until you alight the barrel index line with one on the cap. Unscrew barrel for one full revolution and lock in place with a set screw.
- Insert desired calibre die into place in barrel and lock it with set screw.
- Insert desired brass piece into calibre die.
- Loosen cutter set screw and move cutter until it touches neck of brass. Re-tighten setscrew.
- Slightly loosen cutting head set screw and adjust the position of the carbide insert so that the neck edge will touch the base of the V shape cutout on the insert. Re-tighten cutting head set screw.
- Loosen barrel set screw and adjust for height. Re-tighten. Each mark on the cap equals 0.002″ travel.
- Install into a drill, drill press, dedicated rotary tool, etc… Ensure the drill turns clockwise, otherwise cutters will not work properly.
- While drill is running, insert brass case into calibre die. If not trimmed to the right length shut down and adjust barrel as per Step 7.
- Go trim happy… When you don’t hear the inserted brass being trimmed, time to put in the next piece.
It is a lot of work for setting up the Trim-It II, but once the tool is setup, the unit is spectacularly fast in doing it’s job. For those who only have a hand drill however, the entire setup will be hard on the hands.
- Fast once setup
- Nearly forty calibres available
- Easily adjusted for OAL
- Ease of cleaning due to the polycarbonate sleeve
- Rock solid
- High quality
- Not expensive like a GTC Giraud Power Trimmer
- Adjusting the V-notch could be easier to tune
- Hard on hands if using a hand drill
- Handheld brass case tries to spin while cutting
- Not cheap like a Lee Zip-Trim
- Table top drill press, or dedicated drive unit for the Trim-It that allows for two hands to manipulate and hold brass.
- Design change for the carbide insert adjustment. Use a fine thread screw for adjusting distance from centre line.
The Trim-It II as reviewed is available from brick and mortar store locations such as Select Shooting Supplies in Cambridge, Ontario. Their listed prices are, at the time of this review, $189.95 CAD for the Trim-It II, and $29.95 CAD for each calibre die. Is the Trim-It II a worthy addition to one’s repertoire of reloading tools? Does it fall under the category of Tactical, Practical, or Fantastical devices for firearms owners? That is a simple question that only YOU, the reader can answer.
TPF-Online wishes to thank Mr. Chris V. for his comments and additional input on this review. Between his efforts and those of TPF-Online, nearly 2000 pieces of .308 Win brass was trimmed in very little time.
The most common .22 semi-auto rifle in the world; the Ruger 10/22 is a fully customizable firearm which can be modified nearly as much as the AR-15 platform. Relatively cheap to shoot, and fun to shoot, the biggest chore of owning this popular little rifle is feeding it. The .22 long rifle cartridges are notorious for being hard on the fingers for manually loading in past the 10th round, and unless you have a loading tool, the owners of all of these 10/22 magazines likely will not enjoy shooting off a brick (500 rounds) of cheap rim-fire.
So if TPF were to tell readers that there is a new magazine for the 10/22 which has a 25 round capacity, metal feed lips, an easily controlled follower for loading, they may say that is a good thing! Now, on that same magazine, add in a 20 round pocket and a built-in stripper clip to speed load those extra rounds in just a few seconds. The answer is “TAKE MY MONEY!”. There is good news as such a magazine exists in the form of the HC3R magazine from HC Mags. The HC3R is a short form from HC Rapid Rifle Reload, and just from that title the designed product’s end abilities are fairly obvious.
The HC3R magazine actually has several features which have been desired over the years in a 10/22 magazine, and while many aftermarket magazines have one or more of these features, very few, if any have all of them.
- Larger round capacity than factory magazines
- Steel feed lips for enhanced durability and increased lifespan of the magazine for feeding ammunition
- A means of dis-assembly for cleaning the magazine
- A follower retraction stud, large and lockable into retracted position for spring free loading
Point number one. More rounds readily loaded equals more fun and less time between shots for extended periods and the HC3R has an increased capacity over the original ten (10) round Ruger rotary magazines. While its twenty-five (25) rounds is not among largest capacity magazines available for the 10/22, with one hundred and ten (110) round drum magazines topping those available, it is in line with the majority of aftermarket magazines. The author finds that even a couple dozen rounds can go downrange extremely quickly… What joy!
Feed lips are essential for two reasons, they align the cartridge into proper feed positions and ensure a smooth extraction from the magazine into the firearm’s chamber. Older plastic/polymer feed lips have a history of wearing out after a few thousand rounds. Current generations of polymer are improved in durability but steel, or alloy, feed lips are a heavily desired feature as it greatly enhances the lifetime of a magazine before extraction issues become noticeable. HC Mags knew this and incorporated stainless steel feed lips into the HC3R magazine design.
As anyone who shoots thousands of rounds of .22LR will attest, it is a very dirty round which leaves soot and carbon all over, and if left to build up over time, can cause malfunctions and possibly damage to the firearm itself. Magazines are no exception to this and it is a problem that many 10/22 aftermarket magazines fail to address. With extended usage and hundreds, even thousands, of rounds cause magazines to accumulate crud and can even trap water and dirt and it becomes nearly impossible to clean if the magazine is manufactured by fusion processes, such as sonic welding two plastic halves together. The HC3R is a fully bolted together magazine which allows for unparalleled access to clean every nook and cranny from dirt, carbon, and water. A great plus
A well-known feature in most if not all .22LR magazine fed handguns due to the small component manipulation. In this respect the HC3R shines ever so brightly. The huge thumb stud allows for easy tension control as you load ammunition the common method of through the feed lips. You can easily hold it slightly back to allow for the next round to be loaded without worry of misalignment, or lock it completely back at a fully collapsed position. Be aware that rounds, if not inserted properly, can experience misalignment and stack incorrectly with the cartridge perpendicular to the feed lips instead of parallel.
With all of these features, readers may think that these magazines by themselves are very desirable due to the comprehensive features included in the magazine. So here comes the additional bonus. On the side of the magazine is a slot which stores twenty (20) rounds of ammunition. The back component of the HC3R magazine is a speed stripper clip which has two features. The first is as a cover to retain the side stored ammunition when mounted onto the magazine. The second feature is that in addition to aligning loaded rounds in the magazine, it functions as the speed loading strip for quick reloads. So on a fully loaded magazine you will have a total of forty-five (45) rounds available from a single magazine.
Lets start with how to fully load the magazine to maximum capacity by following these steps:
- Take a quantity of your preferred .22LR ammunition, at least 45 rounds obviously and have them readily available. Have the empty HC3R magazine present.
- Using the thumb stud on the magazine, retract the spring and follower completely and rotate the stud a quarter turn to lock it into position.
- Take hold of the speed stripper on the HC3R magazine and pull it away from the magazine. The bottom edge is retained by a spring-loaded guide.
- Load up 20 rounds into the clip. The speed stripper clip has a pair of guide channels on the inside of its curved profile. The indicator for a total of twenty rounds is easily visible on the inside of the clip. Loading the clip to 20 rounds is very easy and fast with no need to use force or leverage, as the rim of the .22LR round simply slides into the clip’s aforementioned channels. Loaded rounds can only enter and exit the clip on one edge. Ensure that the clip is oriented such to prevent rounds from falling out of the clip due to gravity and movement.
- Ensuring that the rounds do not fall out of the clip, place the rounds into the side storage pocket of the magazine and slide the clip down and away. Now ensure that the orientation of the magazine is such that rounds do not fall out of the magazine.
- Load up another 20 rounds into the clip as per step 4.
- With the magazine positioned to not drop any of the side storage rounds, and so that rounds do not fall out of the clip, insert the clip into the magazine by pushing the bottom end into the spring-loaded guide, and snap the clip into the retaining notch. That is forty (40) rounds so far!
- Turn the magazine over to ensure rounds in magazine are aligned and release the thumb stud. This is the hardest part to ensure that the rounds sit properly in the feed lips. It is due to the rim overlap and position in the magazine. It took TPF several attempts to get it to work properly every time, by practice makes perfect.
- Use the thumb stud to relieve tension and load the remaining five (5) rounds to maximum capacity. Total time for the author to load up with practice? Under 90 seconds.
Now that the magazine is loaded to full capacity with reserve twenty rounds:
- Install the magazine, and shoot the first 25 rounds. FUN!
- Remove the magazine. Why? Spinning the 10/22 around to ensure magazine orientation is sure to give you many funny looks if not yelled at for unsafe firearm manipulation.
- Using the thumb stud on the magazine, retract the spring and follower completely and rotate the stud a quarter turn to lock it into position.
- With the magazine held with the stripper on top, take hold of the now empty speed stripper on the HC3R magazine and pull it away from the magazine
- The side storage has twenty rounds waiting for the clip to slide over. Remember the channels holding the rims of the cartridges? It is that easy.
- Retract the loaded stripper clip, then with the magazine positioned so that rounds do not fall out of the clip, insert the clip into the magazine by pushing the bottom end into the spring-loaded guide, and snap the clip into the retaining notch.
- Turn the magazine over to ensure rounds in magazine are aligned and release the thumb stud. Voila! 20 seconds and another twenty rounds ready to shoot.
- Install the magazine, and shoot the remaining rounds. MORE FUN!
Loading forty-five rounds took 90 seconds. Reloading to use all 45 rounds extended that to under two minutes. How long would it take to load two typical 25 round magazines? Longer than a couple of minutes without any tools or loading accessories. Plus the ten seconds to reload. The HC3R is all about time and thumbs saved in loading magazines so that 10/22 users can enjoy more time putting rounds downrange with the least amount of effort loading. The only negative possible is the width of the magazine with the side pocket which may limit the fit up of some aftermarket 10/22 rifle stocks such as the previously looked at Archangel Stock.
But wait! There’s even MORE!
If your 10/22 is an extremely hungry rifle like the author’s, chewing through a brick of ammunition per session is not unheard of. The balance of buying multiple magazines versus loading them to go through several hundred rounds in a session of rimfire therapy is an eternal dilemma. Or rather was… HC Mag’s understands the need to feed the rimfire hunger, and released the Tactical Pack for the HC3R magazine.
The case itself is thermo-formed with a robust zipper and has both a flexible carry handle as well as a pair of shoulder strap rings on its exterior. The internals are two-fold, with the base filled with EVA foam that is pre-cut to hold all its contents securely. The battle pack contains one complete HC3R magazine, 5 extra speed loader clips with retaining caps, and a quick strip loading box for fast loading of the speed loader clips. Plus multiple pocket cutouts for typical small boxes of .22LR ammunition and a small cutout arrangement for the included set of hex keys for magazine dis-assembly. The upper portion of the case has a zipper closed mesh pocket that encompasses the entire case cover in size, and can be used for targets, bore snakes, and other items that you may wish to include.
The loading box for fast speed strip loading takes couple minutes to fully load up with 100 rounds, five rows of twenty, and setup for usage. Once setup, it takes less than a half minute to load up the five speed loading clips.
If fully loaded up with ammunition, the entire case securely holds 545 rounds of .22LR, which makes the Tactical Pack heavy enough to warrant the usage of the shoulder strap included in the package. Of those rounds 245 are ready to use, with an additional 300 rounds in reserve. Unfortunately the reserve ammunition box cut outs are designed for use with paper boxed ammunition, not plastic boxes which are larger and may not fit properly if at all.
The Tactical Pack when fully kitted delivers:
- One fully loaded magazine with side pocket filled. 45 rounds ready to use
- Five fully charged speed loading clips. 5 x 20 = 100 rounds ready to use
- One filled loading box. 100 rounds ready to use
- Six 50 round factory boxes of .22LR. 300 rounds of reserve
That should keep those hungry 10/22 rifles satiated for the meantime, and with the Tactical Pack having an MSRP of $89.00 USD, and available from Canadian vendors such as Wanstalls Online. What do you, the readers think? Is the HC3R magazine and the corresponding Tactical Pack by HC Mags Tactical, Practical, or Fantastical?
While beat out in the origins of lever actions by nearly 20 years, one of the grandfathers of lever actions, the Winchester 1886, was designed by the legendary John Moses Browning. Seeing a trend towards bigger and heavier ammunition trends, Winchester commissioned for a newer design and in 1884, the conceptual action for the “future” 1886 was adopted and put into reality. The rifle was built to handle the larger cartridges available in that time period, which included the venerable Government 45-70. For nearly half a century the Winchester 1886 was produced in numbers that exceeded 150,000 units. By the end of it’s run in 1935, this workhorse of a rifle had been chambered in several different calibres and had proven its worth to firearms owners across North America.
U.S. Patent 306,577, was granted October 14th, 1884. The design in very simple terms added a set of moving locking lugs which ensured the solid lock-up of the breech block, and thereby allowed higher pressure cartridges to be utilized in a lever action design. Previous actions were locked up via toggle links which were insufficient to withstand the more powerful cartridges that were appearing and desired by the firearms enthusiasts of that era. When the first production of the 1886 rifle was started there were only three calibres available for it. These were the .45-70 Government (1873), .40-82 WCF (1885), and .45-90 WCF (1886).
A lesser known fact is that in 1886, the first smokeless powder cartridge was created for military use by the French in the form of the 8mm Lebel, but this would take time to filter over into the North American market.
In 1887 several more cartridges were introduced specifically due to the 1886’s popularity, and those were the .38-55 WCF, .40-65 WCF and the .38-70 WCF. The large .50-110 Winchester was added in 1899, and a few short years later, after the turn of the century, the first cartridge without a black powder history, the .33 WCF, was added into the lineup of calibres.
So now that TPF has gone down a but of history of the classic Winchester 1886 lever action rifle, it is time to fast forward nearly one and a quarter centuries later and Italian gun manufacturer, Chiappa Firearms, has endeavoured to produce a reproduction of the venerable Winchester 1886 with modern craftsmanship and quality materials. That means that parts will be 100% interchangeable between the original 1886’s which were all hand fitted for each firearm manufactured. What fit perfectly in one 1886, could just as likely be too loose, or very tight on another 1886 which meant a lot of labour and “fiddling” was required to ensure a perfectly smooth action and precise lock up. The rifle being looked at is a full length 1886 reproduction with a full octagonal barrel chambered in .45-70 Government.
Specifications of the Chiappa 1886 Lever Action Rifle
- Calibre: .45-70 Government (Modern loads)
- Barrel: 26″ (66cm) Full Octagon, 1-18″ twist rate
- Receiver: Case coloured frame
- Capacity: 8+1 (Shipped with internal plug to 5 as per Italian law)
- Mass: Approximately 9lbs (4.1kg)
- Overall Length: 45″ (115cm)
What is case colouring? In the past when firearms were manufactured from softer iron, they needed to harden the outer surfaces of receivers to improve the wear and toughness of the components. Hardness of a metal is usually determined by the amount of carbon that makes up the metallurgy of the metal. In the distant past, to surface harden iron products, was accomplished by packing the iron in a mixture of ground bone and charcoal or a combination of leather, hooves, salt and urine, all inside a well-sealed box. This package is heated to a high temperature, below the iron’s melting point, for a sufficient time to have the carbon infuse/permeate the iron surface. The longer this carbonizing process, the harder the surface becomes due to greater levels of carbon penetrating into the surface. The resulting case hardened part, due to the impurities in the packing mixtures, created an oxide surface which had patterns of colours and hues ranging from orange to dark blue. This surface was harder and showed better wear and corrosion resistance which was usually the sign of a higher quality firearm in that bygone era. That was known as “Case Hardened Colouration”, yet in modern manufacturing steel, an iron and carbon alloy, is used which has inherent hardness levels and much better resistive properties than the old school materials utilized. What this means is that while the components are no longer case hardened the old fashioned way, the colouration, as if the parts had been produced as such, creates a very attractive decoration.
The modern day 1886 manufactured by Chiappa obviously falls into the latter category and has applied case colouration to nearly every major external metal component except for the barrel, magazine tube, breech block and feed gate. That is correct; the butt-stock plate, the lever arm, trigger, hammer, and even the fore-stock cap are all case coloured. The nearly black bluing on the barrel and magazine tube and the wonderfully vibrant walnut wood stock and forearm make for a wonderful visual piece of eye candy. Necessary? No. Beautiful? Yes.
The firearms itself is pleasant to shoot, TPF took the 1886 to a local range and proceeded to lob small ashtrays down range. In all seriousness, many thanks to The Gun Centre, located in Kitchener, Ontario; for providing TPF-Online some ammunition to perform actual field tests on this rifle. Winchester Ballistic Silvertip 300gr, Remington Express Rifle 405gr SP, and Hornady Leverevolution 325gr FTX were all used, sixty (60) rounds were fired with no issues and acceptable out of the box accuracy. Using 15cm (6″) steel targets at 45m (50yd), the author was able to hit several runs of five consecutive shots, at least until a flinch started to develop. While quite enjoyable to shoot offhand, the author of this piece will likely not shoot 405gr rounds. or anything similar, from the bench ever again.
Chiappa’s Model 1886 lever action rifle, is a modern day reproduction of the classic Winchester 1886 design chambered in .45-70 Government. With an MSRP of about $1,500.00 USD it is not for the cheap and frugal, nor those who penny pinch on ammunition. Chiappa firearms are distributed through Canada by North Sylva, so if you are interested, retailers akin to Barton’s Big Country Outdoors, located in Grande Prairie, Alberta, should be able to order them for you.
It is a serious rifle in a beautiful package. However if you were looking at this rifle and debating to purchase it or even look at one; ask yourself this, is it Practical, Tactical, or Fantastical! Then go buy one anyways, because more guns = more fun!
NOTE: The basic 1886 rifle featured in this installment of TPF is scarcely available nowadays. The trend has been the Chiappa Kodiak which has a synthetic stock, and a stainless steel constructions, with a shorter barrel.