Forster Ultra Dies, StaBALL HD and the 7mm PRC – Ultimate Reloader

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It’s no secret I’ve become fond of the new 7mm PRC cartridge and I was eager to do some loading for it on the Forster Co-Ax press with the new Forster Ultra dies. I was also able to use Winchester’s StaBALL HD smokeless rifle powder

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Review: 7mm PRC

I view the 7mm PRC as a long-range hunting cartridge, particularly well-suited for handling long, heavy-for-caliber bullets such as Hornady’s 175 grain ELD-X hunting bullet. Here at Ultimate Reloader, we’ve been busy with the 7 PRC since last fall when Gavin built two different rifles chambered for that cartridge. One is a heavy match rifle built on a BAT action, the other was built as a long-range hunting rifle on a Bergara Premier action. All of my 7 PRC shooting has been with the Bergara-based custom rifle. 

We’ve already done a number of stories revolving around the 7mm PRC.

7mm PRC Reloading: What You’ll Need

NEW 7mm PRC: Complete Overview

7mm PRC Freedom Rifle Build (Chambering, Cerakote, Laser, more)

7mm PRC Bergara Premier Build (Chambering, Cerakote, Stock, more)

7mm PRC vs. 6.5 PRC vs. 300 PRC

Quick Look: RCBS 7mm PRC Dies

Showdown! 7mm Rem Mag -vs- 7mm PRC

Review: StaBALL HD

Winchester’s new StaBALL HD powder is intended for use in overbore and magnum type cartridges such as the 7mm Remington Magnum, the 7 PRC and the 300 PRC.

The spherical powder flows easily and accurately through powder measures. The slow burn rate is similar to Hodgdon’s Retumbo, Ramshot LRT, and H1000. It also offers copper eliminating properties, temperature insensitivity, and we’ve found that it produces single digit standard deviation figures in both the 7 PRC and the 300 PRC. I’m looking forward to trying it in the 257 Weatherby Magnum and the 7mm Remington Magnum. 

Review: Forster Co-Ax Press

Forster’s Co-Ax press has a unique design and is often used by those who seek to build extremely accurate rifle ammunition.

Rather than using a conventional shell holder, the Forster Co-Ax press uses unique “jaws” that allow some float for the case head. The dies also have some float built in because of the way they are held in the press. This combination is conducive to perfectly centering the cartridge case and aligning it during sizing and bullet seating. 

Last year I used it to produce some excellent 223 match grade ammunition using Lapua brass and Berger’s terrific 77 grain OTM bullet. 

About the New Forster 7 PRC Ultra dies

While we’ve already tested dies from RCBS, this time we’re exploring Forster’s new Ultra Dies. I’m using them to load some long-range hunting ammunition using Hornady’s 175 grain ELD-X hunting bullet. 

From Forster:

Forster Ultra Dies full length resize, and include three different neck bushings. The micrometer seating die is designed to seat the bullet with perfect alignment. 

Set includes Bushing Full Length Sizing Die, Bench Rest® Ultra Micrometer Seater Die and 3 bushings.

The Bushing Full Length Sizing Die offers advanced precision by allowing you to control the amount of neck sizing tension in your reloaded brass while sizing the body and bumping the shoulder. This die improves accuracy and prolongs case life because the case’s shoulder and body are sized down just enough to fit in a minimum-sized SAAMI rifle chamber, and bushing limits working of the neck.

Bushing Full Length Sizing Die with etched reference line and Accu-Ring

The Ultra Micrometer Seater Die is a non-crimping style seater die that holds the bullet and case in perfect alignment while the bullet is press-fit seated.

I found it interesting that these dies are offered only in several cartridges very popular with precision shooters: 6 Creedmoor, 6 Dasher, 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, 7 PRC and 308 Winchester. That provides a clue as to whom Forster is marketing the Ultra Dies. 

Loading at the Bench

I’ve been shooting the 7 PRC a fair bit and was able to start with some once-fired Hornady brass. I cleaned it, then lubed it with Imperial Sizing Die Wax and brushed the insides of the necks with a nylon brush. I also chamfered and deburred the case mouths. 

I cleaned the new dies with Hornady One-Shot spray cleaner/lube to get rid of any grease or grit from the manufacturing process. Next, I assembled them and slipped the sizing die into the Forster Co-Ax press. Forster’s locking rings are extra thick to match the slots cut into their press. Those locking rings can be used on other standard size dies as well. 

Following Forster’s instructions, I measured the necks of several loaded 7 PRC cases and came up with an average of .314. This indicated I should use the neck bushing marked .312 rather than either of the other bushings included with the die, which were marked .308 and .310. The bushing die slips easily into the sizing die. 

It’s worth noting that Forster’s locking ring is marked with graduations which are to be used in conjunction with the etched reference line on the die threads. 

After sizing, I primed the  cases using the Primal Rights Competition Primer Seater. This tool is absolutely top notch and I thoroughly enjoy using it. 

The RCBS Chargemaster Supreme dutifully metered out accurate charge weights of StaBALL HD time after time. I’ve grown fond of using an electronic powder measure when reloading rifle ammunition. While I’m seating one bullet, the Chargemaster just continues working and meters out another powder charge. 

Seating the long Hornady ELD-X bullets was very easy using the Forster Co-Ax press and the Ultra Micrometer Seating Die. This bullet has a remarkable G1 BC of .660 and G7 BC of .330, indicating it should retain velocity and perform very well at longer ranges.

About the Rifle

Gavin built this rifle as a long range/precision hunting rifle.

 I’ve loaded for it and shot it a fair bit, and have concluded that he hit his mark with this one. The components work splendidly together, making a weather-resistant and easy-to-shoot precision rifle. It has a 22” barrel to make it a bit more suppressor friendly. I’d hunt with it!

The rifle has already shown excellent accuracy with both the 180 grain ELD-M and the 175 grain ELD-X bullets. 

Shooting (Chrono Test + Steel)

A couple of months ago I used this load for our StaBALL HD feature story. Interestingly though, using the same load, this time my ammunition showed about a 50 fps gain at 2899 fps from the 22” Bartlein. The standard deviation figure also improved — down to 8 fps from the previous 13.8 fps SD. Single digit SD figures are gratifying, and indicate good potential for long-range consistency. 

Due to fire danger, we didn’t shoot steel at longer ranges. We set up a couple of steel targets in our industrial yard about 100 yards away, where there’s little chance of fire. I engaged them from standing using the lightweight yet stable Ultradyne UD Carbon Tripod and Orbit ball head

Hornady’s 4DOF online calculator provided this data, showing that the 7mm 175 grain ELD-X launched at 2900 fps mv should be quite useful for hunting big game out to 600 yards and beyond. The bullet has a G1 BC of .689 and G7 BC of .347. Both figures are impressive and indicate the long-range potential of this bullet.

 

I noted that at 600 yards, the 175 ELD-X retained 2134 fps. This is faster than a 170 grain bullet from my little 30-30 at the muzzle! 

Conclusion

Forster’s new Ultra Die set compliments the other precision dies in their line and their famous Co-Ax reloading press. The new dies offer an alternative for handloaders seeking to produce excellent accuracy. 

Winchester’s StaBall HD produced excellent results in the 7 PRC with fine velocity and very good single digit SD figures. It’s an easy powder to use and I hope to try it in several other magnum and overbore type cartridges. 

Get the Gear

Ultra™ Die Set – Forster Products

At the time of this writing, I found the Forster Ultra Dies at a considerable discount at Midsouth Shooters Supply, but not yet in 7 PRC. I believe that will change soon and that they will be carrying the 7 PRC Ultra Dies:

The Forster Co-Ax reloading press is available at Midsouth and also through Forster.

Ultradyne’s carbon tripod and Orbit ball head

Hornady 7 PRC brass is still difficult to locate which is typical of a popular new cartridge. 

Hornady 7mm 175 grain ELD-X bullets – Note 1:8.5 twist or faster is recommended.

Winchester StaBall HD is new, but is becoming available: 

Winchester StaBALL HD (hodgdon.com)

Winchester StaBALL HD Smokeless Powder 1 Lb by Winchester

Winchester StaBALL HD Smokeless Powder 8 Lbs by Winchester

Primers remain the toughest component to source. 

Gold Medal Magnum Large Rifle Match Primer #GM215M 1000 Count by Federal 

Magnum Large Rifle Primer #215 1000 Count by Federal

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Thanks,
Guy Miner

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