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The 6X45 for Varminting.
By Will Sherer
A couple of shooters from Virginia came out to shoot prairie dogs a few years back and one shot a 6 x 47. Like a lot of summer days in Colorado it was very hot and windy. Although we found a tree to set up under to escape the sun (few and far between in the high desert) we couldn’t escape the wind. Most of our shots at the dogs were cross-wind. We weren’t going to leave that tree and its shade, so we made do. I wasn’t doing to bad, but the wind was giving us some problems, except for the one guy with the 6 X 47.
I had put away my 22 K-Hornet an hour or two before and changed to a .221 Fireball with 35 V-Max bullets. I was using one of my Osprey Global MD 6 – 24 x50 scopes and had to hold three to four dots into the wind. I was doing OK, not great, out to around 200 yards. Anything beyond 200 yards was wasting ammo. The.221 Fireball with 35 V-Max bullets just wasn’t cutting it. My truck was about 200 yards away along with my .223 AI and a 22-250 Rem, both with rounds loaded with 55 V-Max. I just didn’t want to walk the 400 yards in the sun to get one. At the time, the 22-250 was the biggest varmint rifle I had and it heated up way to fast when the sun was beating down and the temperature was over 100 degrees.
But that guy with the 6 X 47 kept popping dogs at 300, 350, and a few even farther away. He didn’t miss much. Finally I asked if I could shoot the 6 X 47 a couple times. He paused and then said “OK”. Being from the East and not shooting many rounds a day, he only had about 150 cases with him. He had been loading them at night in the Motel to be able to shoot the next day and he wasn’t in a hurry to shoot them up. The first shot I took was at about 250 yards and I just missed into the wind. I held too much. Surprised, I placed the crosshairs for the next shot just on the wind side of the dog and took the shot. On, dead dog. He was loading the 58 V-Max. The heaver weight and the better ballistic coefficient the 6 X 47 held the wind much better.
Several months went by and I had kept the thought of that 6 X 47 in my head. Up to this point I only had 22 caliber rifles: a .22-K-Hornet, .221 Fireball, .222 Rem, .223 Rem, .223 Rem AI, and a couple 22-250 Rem. Staying with the 22 caliber, I started looking for a WIND GUN. I picked up a real nice .22/308 custom rifle in a Remington 700 short action when a gunsmith in Colorado Springs, Colorado passed. It shot great, BUT, and their seams to always be a BUT, it heated up fast and used a lot of propellant. Sold that to a groundhog shooter in Pennsylvania and far as I know it worked out great for him.
I don’t know why but I picked up a .220 Swift and later turned it into a 220 Swift Ackley Improved, same problems but only hotter. Then I turned one of the 22-250 Remington into an AI, same problems, but it didn’t heat-up quite as bad as the 220 Swift, and took a little less propellant. I stayed with the 22-250 Rems and 22-250 Rem AI as my WIND GUNS for a couple years but I wasn’t happy. I couldn’t shoot more than 20 rounds on those hot, high desert days or the guns would get way to hot. I would switch back and forth with the two and make do. I was spending a lot of time waiting for a gun to cool down to shoot. On some of those days I could have easily shot 300 rounds a day, so I was loosing trigger time.
I was talking with one of my shooting friends one day and we got talking about shooting in the wind. I told him I wasn’t happy with the 22-250 Rem and 22-250 Rem AI as my WIND GUN, he said “Use a 6mm.” He also just happened to have a 6mm PPC, Ruger M77, dies, cases, and loaded ammo for sale. That started my ‘6mm phase’, and the 6 X 47 popped back into my head because of the cost of the 6 PPC brass.
Around that time I also got started into the 20 Practical using 5.56 x 45 mm NATO brass to make my cases. Several manufactures make .223 Remington brass. It’s easy to find, a lot of times you can be at an open range and find brass all over the ground. Brass can be bought for $.07 to $.20 at gun shows and you get all one manufacture. To use for varmint shooting that is all you need.
I didn’t want to go to the 6 X 47 because of the price of brass (.222 Mag necked up to 6mm) and it was very hard to find. But, I liked the idea of the 6mm caliber. While looking around on the internet I came across several articles on the 6 X 45, a .223 Rem (5.56 x 45 mm NATO) necked up to 6mm. Now that got my attention. I started asking around on a couple forums about the 6 X 45. Several people shot the 6 X 45 for what I wanted to use it for; prairie dog and other varmint, shooting under windy conditions.
My next problem was what platform to build it on: Ruger, Remington, Savage, or custom. I had a Remington 700 SA SPS in 223 Rem that just didn’t shoot real great, good, but not great. That was my choice, just because I had one. All that I needed was a 6mm barrel and have my gunsmith re-barrel/re-chamber to 6 X 45. A member of a forum I’m on solved that problem. He sold me two take-off 6mm barrels from a bench rest shooter that had changed them out because they had stopped shooting in the 1’s and 2’s (less than 300 rounds through each). One would be my 6 X 45 and the other another a custom 6mm PPC.
I bought 1,000 .223 Remington’s (R-P) for $.07 each, from another friend. What a deal. I didn’t have to get a new set of reloading dies either; I use my Redding .223 Remington Bushing Die set. I took the expander ball from an extra 6mm PPC die set, used a .264 bushing, and I had my sizing die. I purchased a 6 X 45 Redding seater die off of the same forum.
Checking the brass I found around 80 percent appeared to be once fired, the rest were questionable. First I annealed them. This would make it easier to expand the .223 Remington neck to 6 mm. Then I sized them using a small base Redding die in .223 Remington.
Most folks that reload avoid annealing like the plague. It’s not really that hard, just use some common sense. Good annealing can be done with everyday items found around the house. All that is needed is an empty coffee can or aluminum pan, a propane torch from your local hardware store, and a portable drill with a socket to hold the brass while it spins. Several methods on how to anneal can be found on the internet and work according to how deep your pockets are.
I use a stud that fits in my drill to hold a socket size for whatever case I’m using and spin it in the flame. Use a 3/8 socket for 223 base brass (.378), a 7/16 socket for PPC base brass (.441), and a ½ socket for 308 base brass (.473). Fill the coffee can ¾ full of water to drop the hot brass into to cool it down.
I secure my propane torch in a box with something around it to keep the torch upright, most of the time bags of bullets. When annealing you don’t touch the torch, just the flame. With the drill on medium speed, spin the brass in the flame where the shoulder first starts at the neck, at an angle with the shoulder, for about 6 to 8 seconds or until the brass first turns blue. I use the one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two method. At the one-thousand and six count the brass just starts to turn and by one-thousand and eight, it has turned blue. Drop your brass in a can of water and now the case is annealed. Some folks call this the messy method. You will have to get the water out somehow and get the case dry before you can do anything else.
Another method I just started using is the dry method. When the case turns blue simply drop it in a pan to cool. A word of CAUTION: the pan will get very hot after 50 to 100 cases. Whatever is under that pan will get hot too.
Annealing extends the life of your brass and improves accuracy, or so it has been said. I don’t shoot MAX loads that expand my primer pocket so my brass has a chance to split before the primer pocket expands. With the cost of new brass now-a-days, I want my brass to last a very long time. The short stubby cases, the 6 and 22 PPC, 6 BR and 22 BR, and the 221 Fireball seem to need annealing more often. Some need it every time they are shot. I anneal every two-to-four firings or when resizing the expander ball pulls through the case neck with little effort.
The expander ball’s job is to expand the case neck after the case has been sized one or two thousandths tight when the case is at the top of the resizing stroke. But again some folks do not use an expander ball. A mandrel is used by the bench rest group. If the case is fire hardened it will not size down that one or two thousandths and the expander ball will pull through the case neck on the down stroke with little effort and the bullet will not be tight in the case neck when loaded. When reloading and seating a bullet pressure should be felt when the bullet is seated, this is known as the “Neck Tension”. If the case doesn’t size properly, the case isn’t gripping the bullet and it may let the bullet slide down inside the case. If the bullet seats too easily, a RED FLAG should go up. That’s usually the first sign your brass needs to be annealed. Pull that bullet, dump the powder back into your powder measure, set that case aside, and consider annealing the rest of your brass. Letting the bullet slide into the case will send the pressure sky high and maybe damage the gun and the person holding it.
I anneal fired brass before I take the primer out. This way when I full length re-size I’ll have softer brass to work with. Also when I tumble it’ll clean up where the flame discolored my brass.
After annealing, full length re-sizing, and tumbling; I trim my brass to the TRIM LENGTH listed in most reloading books. With the 6 X 45 case it is 1.750 inches, same as the parent case, the 5.56 x 45 mm NATO/223 Remington. Most factory chambers are 20 to 30 thousandths or much more over the MAX LENGTH just to be safe on their part. If firing a round in a custom chamber you need to know the chamber length. I just want my cases all the same length, it makes me feel better. I don’t want to be on a prairie dog town many miles from nowhere on a very hot day, and jam a case in the chamber. The very least that can happen is to put the gun out of commission until it cools down. The worst, if I pulled the trigger, is damage to the gun, which would get ugly.
Once I’ve full length re-sized, tumbled, trimmed, and cleaned the primer pocket, my brass is stored in color coded plastic boxes. I use color coding and large print box ID because I have several calibers near the same size. Some can’t be mixed, some can with dangerous consequences. A .222 Rem put in a .223 Rem chamber will blow the gun, I’ve seen the results. Others like the .22 PPC in a 6 PPC nothing happens, you just have bad accuracy, a .224 bullet bouncing down a .243 barrel.
The biggest advantage of color coded boxes for my ammo; it helps me end-up in the field with the right ammo for the rifle at hand. More than once I’ve been with someone that arrived in the field with the wrong ammo for the rifle they have with them, or no ammo at all; it gets real hard to shoot prairie dogs that way. They either shoot my rifle and ammo or watch me shoot prairie dogs for a couple days, I’ve had both happen.
To start my loading and fire forming I used information I had received from different sources on the internet of guys that had been using the 6 X 45 for awhile. Knowing I’m going to only shoot paper targets and prairie dogs, high velocity isn’t my thing. Hot loads mean low barrel life. Besides, I haven’t found a prairie dog yet that can out run a bullet at low or high velocity. Usually lower velocity loads are more accurate from 100 to 300 yards, but now always. The heavier bullets need to be pushed a little to maintain their accuracy at longer ranges. If prairie dogs go down beyond 300 yards, I just move my set-up.
My barrel is a 1 in 14″ twist; it should shoot bullet weights from 55 to 70 grains with little problems. I started with the 55 gr Nosler spitzer and Ballistic Tip, and the 58 gr Hornady V-Max.
The propellant I chose to use for the 55 gr Nosler Spitzer and Ballistic Tip, and the 58 gr Hornady V-Max was:
Ramshot TAC 25 – 26.5 gr
Not knowing where to start with my rifle, I used the 25.3 grains TAC with the 58 gr Hornady V-Max for fire forming. After fire forming I used 26 grains of TAC as my starting loads. With the 55 gr Nosler bullets I used 25.6 grs of TAC as my fire forming loads and 26.5 grains of TAC as my starting loads.
I gave up on the 55 gr Nosler spitzer right off the bat; they just wouldn’t group consistently under an inch at 100 yards, even with once fired brass. I loaded the rest of my once fired cases (about 700) with Ramshot TAC using the 58 grain Hornady V-Max bullets. With 26 grs of TAC to an OAL of 2.275, for my rifle, all shots averaged around 3,000 fps. Most groups were around a half too three fourth of an inch at 100 yds, well under MOPD (Minute of Prairie Dog).
The first two short trips out the 6 x 45 did well. The wind was up, around 15 to 20 mph, which is kind ‘a normal here in the West, in the spring and summer. I kept my shots under 300 yards and didn’t miss too often. I even scored a couple doubles at around 250 yards, I was happy.
Loads in this article work in my rifle, they may not in yours. Work up to them.
This build turned out real nice: an easy to handling rifle for the wind. Like the 20 Practical, and the 223 Rem, the 6 x 45 will fill a space. On those days the wind is a little strong I can still keep the prairie dogs a jumping.