Mike's Reloading Bench
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Why did I build the MRB Annealer?
Last updated 8/19/2016
Remington or Savage?
Good question. I did it because I had gotten to the point where I was going to need one so I started looking at what was out there and as usual I let myself get carried away. After looking at several current machines and watching a bunch of videos of them in operation I thought what the heck, I can make my own out of whatever I have laying around the shop. How hard can it be anyway? Well, as I discovered it was a lot harder than I thought. I decided that if I was going to make a machine I might as well think about bringing it to market. Getting a case into the flame of the torch was the easy part. Being able to do a large range of different cases without having to change a whole bunch of parts turned out to be the hard part. I also wanted a machine that I could load up with a bunch of cases, turn it on and then just sit back and watch it run. Little did I know how challenging that would turn out to be.
So, sitting in my office staring at a blank computer screen, I started thinking about how I would go about designing a machine that would be able to process the largest range of common case sizes with the absolute least amount of component changes. Especially major components like the rollers. Also, I wanted a quality built machine. The world is full of cheap junk and I have no interest in adding to it so I picked stainless steel and aluminum as my materials of choice. I also wanted a magazine fed machine so I didn't have to sit there and insert one case at a time. Just load 'er up and let 'er eat. By now I was beginning to think that this lofty thinking might be a bit much as people do have budgets so I set out trying to source what I needed to build a quality machine and keep the price as low as possible. This took a lot of digging around but ultimately I found what I needed.
It didn't take long, once I got into doing some design work for all the little design gremlins to start showing up. Things I never thought about would more or less jump off my monitor and taunt me or just slap me up side the head and say "hey you big dummy, you can't do that" or " oh, that's real clever, now what about this over here Einstein". I mean, one of the things that drove me half nuts was trying to figure out how to run short cases like 300 Blackout and 17 Hornet without having to change the bottom roller on the machine to a shorter one. Another one was how to open and close the gate without having to use a bunch of switches or solenoids and pricey timers, etc. All stuff that adds up price-wise and adds more complexity and increases the possibility of something screwing up. It took me a couple of days just to figure out what the proper angle on the front of the machine needed be.
So after about a month of drawing every "what if" idea I could come up with I finally settled on the final design as you see it.
More or less. The scariest thing was that now I have to take my drawings to a sheet metal manufacturer and get them to quote the stainless cases. So off I go, drawings in one hand, my little prototype machine in the other. Oh boy, conference room, all the big wigs, engineers, secretary etc. With everybody standing around my crude little prototype machine, drawings spread out all over the table, the discussion began. With arms folded, nodding and whispering amongst themselves, it was decided that it was something they could do for me. And so the quoting process began. A week later I received the quote and immeadiately saw that getting "a couple" pieces for testing purposes was not going to happen. I could have bought a new Kelbly bench rest action for what two case assemblies would have cost me! So now, for me, it is the moment of truth. In order to get the cost of these machine cases down to a reasonable price, I have to buy a bunch of them. This for me is a big deal as I have no idea if my machine is going to sell or not. After much thought and some encouragement from friends I went for it. I placed the order and a few weeks later I had a few pallet loads of beautiful bent-up stainless steel in my shop.
As luck would have it, the first run of the machines worked out very well and I have made only very minor changes to the machines going forward. I have had some customers who suggested minor changes and I have incorporated them which has made the machine even better. I thank them for their input. It's not a perfect machine but then no machine is but it is a quality built unit that will get the job done and last a lifetime. As it stands today, the machines are going out the door about as fast as I can make them. I am amazed at how many people choose to anneal their brass and I am certianly grateful to all those who have chosen to use my machine to do it.
Like Trump said, "As long as you're thinking, you might as well think big". He was right!
After everything I have gone through with my Remington 700P 308 over the last couple of years trying to get it to shoot as well as I thought it should, I have some observations to share. Some of you will disagree with what I have to say and some of you will not. That's fine. You are certainly entitled to your opinion based on your own experience.
I bought the 700P based on several YouTube videos I had seen that impressed me with the guns apparent out-of-the-box accuracy. Well, to make a very long story short, I must have got one that was made on a Monday or a Friday. I don't claim to be an excellent shot but I was good enough to make the marksmanship team in the military and also on the police department I served on years ago so it's not like I don't have a clue. To say that my first trip to the range with the 700P was a dissapointment would be an understatement. I fully expected that gun to shoot at least MOA at 100 yards but it was not to be. I tried everything I knew how to do over several months to get it to shoot but to no avail.
Finally, in desperation I took the gun to my local gunsmith. We looked at the barrel with his bore scope and it looked like forty miles of bad road. It was full of tool chatter marks. No wonder this thing wouldn't shoot! After seeing that I left it with them and had it rebarreled, the action trued, the firing pin bushed, the bolt re-timed, the action re-bedded and ultimately I completely rebuilt the stock so that now it finally shoots quite well. I have documented most of that here on this site. The thing is, is that I have now actually spent more on mods to the gun than I paid for it to begin with. This sucks! Now, because of the action blueprinting, if I want to rebarrel at some point in the future I will have to pay someone to thread, chamber and crown a new barrel blank for another $650! This is nuts!
In contrast to my less than stellar experience with my Remington 700P, a good friend of mine goes to his local gun store, buys a Savage 12BTCSS in 223, heads out to the range and promptly puts five rounds in a group you can cover with a nickel at 300 yards! A fluke you say? My shooting buddy Ron did exactly the same thing with another Savage 223 he bought USED at one of our local stores. I gotta tell you, after seeing this and also seeing how easy it is to change barrels on a Savage rifle not to mention you can get one in 6 Norma BR made for benchrest shooting you can bet your sweet bippy my next rifle will be a Savage. To me, it's a no brainer. Another thing the Savage has is a floating bolt head so all this action "truing" is not needed to square up the bolt lugs, etc. I can buy a quality fully finished pre-fit aftermarket barrel from Pac-Nor or Criterion if I wish for a little more than what a good barrel blank costs. I can also have several different calibers simply by changing barrels and bolt heads (if required) and I can do it myself and not have to pay a gunsmith to fit the barrel. All the tools are available for a few bucks so to me this makes real sense. Now, don't get me wrong here. I'm not saying that you can go buy an off-the-shelf Savage rifle and be a TOP competitor but I'll bet you could certainly be "A" competitor. Lets face it, nothing beats a full custom rifle but you can't have one of them for $1,300, not even used.
So in closing, let me say that I have learned a bunch over the last couple of years about what it takes to build an accurate rifle. I have also learned that for an ordinary guy like me that just wants to go to the range once in a while and hone his shooting skills, having a full blown custom gun built is probably a waste of money. The difference between the $3,500 custom and the $1,300 Savage will buy a lot of powder, primers and bullets and a lot of fun times with my shooting buddies. I don't know what Remington's problem is but I for one will not buy another one after what I have seen with my own eyes not to mention the ability to do my own barrel replacements and have the opportunity to have a single platform, multi-caliber rifle. As of this writing, I am looking very hard at a Savage 12 Benchrest in 6 Norma BR. It might be a hammer or it might not but in any case I bet it will shoot beter than any off-the-shelf Remington. So, this is my story and I'm sticking to it. Your mileage may vary.