Preparing Your Cases Part ll
Preparing Your Cases Part ll
Written by: Bob Shell
Now that you have purchased all of your equipment and have set it up the reloading procedure can start. We are going to go over the necessary procedures in preparing our brass. Keep in mind that the case holds everything together and if they are defective or incorrectly prepared your ammo will not be very good. Operating pressures for ammo run from a few thousand LBS. to 65,000 and the case has to contain that pressure during firing.
The first thing is to inspect the cases for any splits or other defects. Look for a shiny ring about ¼” above the head and if it’s prevalent that may be a sign of excess headspace. If you ignore that cases might separate after a couple of loadings. While not very necessary cases can be tumbled to clean them. The best way is in a vibrater type of tumbler with crushed walnut hulls. They seem to do a good job especially with some case cleaner added. After they are cleaned, you can inspect again. Clean cases are easier to inspect as well as looking better.
Before sizing, they need to be lubricated. There are several ways of doing that. You can spray it on and let set or roll them in a lube pad. There is also a wax type of lube, which in my view is the best. The body needs to have some but try not to get too much around the shoulder to avoid dents. With bottleneck cases, lubing is a must, failure to do so will result in a case stuck in the die. While it can be removed with a stuck case removing tool it’s a hassle best avoided. If you have straight cases and tungsten die, lube isn’t generally necessary. The sizing die also removes the spent primers. Usually you set the die so that when the ram is all the way up the die just touches it. That will give you a good full length sized case. For some rifles, a small base die might be necessary. The small base die enables the case to chamber in more then 1 rifle or a semi-auto which usually requires cases to be sized more. Target shooters get dies that only size the neck as they feel that it makes ammo that is more accurate.
After they are sized you can wipe off the lube and inspect again. You also want to check the length of the case. If it’s too long it will require trimming. Cases with necks that are too long will be hard to chamber and in some instances cause dangerous high pressure. A long neck won’t release the bullet properly causing a pressure spike. To check lengths buy a case length gauge and a vernier caliper. A micrometer is also a handy tool to have on the bench. If you buy new cases these procedures, also apply to them. Don’t assume that they are ready to load. We all know what assume means. Your reloading manual also has the correct case length plus the loaded round length. If you buy new cases more often than not the necks are dented so they have to be sized to round them out. After you have checked length then you need to chamfer the inside and outside of the mouth. You can buy a chamfer tool from most sources that sell dies. Chamfering removed excess brass from the mouth and makes loading a bullet easier. It’s especially important when loading small calibers. Chamfering also makes crimping easier and more consistent.
After you have gone through those procedures you are ready to prime. Check the pockets for residue and if there is some remove it with a primer pocket tool. There are two sizes of primers large and small. They are further divided into rifle and handgun. Then again into standard and magnum to add to the confusion. Then there are some specialized primers for certain military arms though you will seldom need those. It’s important to use the proper primer for the case you are loading. An improper type of primer will cause all sorts of problems with your loads including some scenarios that may prove dangerous. Let’s take a 30-06 for instance. In 99% of the time, a large rifle standard primer will work fine. If you are using a real slow powder or expect to be in very cold weather then a magnum cap might work best. There are differences between rifle and handgun primers. A rifle primer cup is thicker because of the higher pressures involved. In addition it is taller and has more priming compound then a handgun as it has to ignite more powder. If you seat a pistol primer in a rifle case it will go in too far and may under ignite the powder. The reloading manual will specify which primer to use and you will do well to follow their advice.
There are several ways to prime but I use a press with the set up. It works fine and I have the necessary feel with that method. You can buy a priming tool which also works ok. When you prime there should be a little resistance to insure that the primer stays in. If there is none the primer pocket may be expanded too much allowing the primer to fall out. That is usually the result of loads that are too warm and you definitely back off the powder charge. The primer should not stick out of the case, which will cause several types of headaches depending on the type of firearm. They should be .001 to .002 below the case head for best results.
Now you are ready for the powder. In the 30-06 there are a large verity of powders suitable to load any bullet weight. Let’s take a 180 grain slug and load that. For best results a medium to medium slow powder works the best. My personal favorite is IMR 4350 but RL 19 and WW760 also give good results. Even H-4831 works ok though it might not give the highest velocities. There are other good powders to use so you have plenty of options. If you are new, stick to the book loads and don’t get cute. Your object is to make good shooting and safe ammo not to break speed records. It seems that every reloader goes through a stage where they want to squeeze every foot second out of a round. Yes, I was guilty of that but I have long since realized that there are more important factors such as accuracy and bullet performance. If you have something such as a 220 Swift and insist on top velocity then prepare to replace your barrel more frequently. Throttle back just 50 or 100 feet per second and that barrel will give you much longer life. When loading be sure to pick the right powder as there are over 150 types available. Some containers look similar such as H-1000 and H-110. If you put the H-110 in a large rifle case, the consequences will be very apparent the first time you pull the trigger. Pay attention!!
When seating the bullet you can either take a factory round or measure it to be sure of proper seating depth. For best accuracy, you would normally seat it out as far as possible keeping in mind that it has to chamber and go through the magazine. If you have it out too far and extract the round the bullet might stick in the rifling and the case and powder will come out. In the field that could be a disaster. That is why you check you ammo for feeding and chambering before you leave the shop. It is easier to fix a problem there then at the range or the hunting field. In a rifle if the bullet has a cannelure its not a bad idea to lightly crimp it as it will enhance feeding and possibly ignition. If no cannelure don’t crimp it as it will buckle the case. In a revolver, crimping is mandatory especially in magnum types. Failure to do so will result in the bullet walking out of the cylinder thus tying up the gun. Poor ignition and accuracy will also result from not crimping.
These are some of the basics and if you follow them you will produce good ammo and will enjoy the hobby more. Once you do it a few times it will become easier and you will start learning how to solve problems that come along. I will be going into more detail in later installments on various aspects of reloading. In the next segment we will go into testing ammo and what to expect and look for.
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