Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sizing and Decapping cases

                                          Dial caliper necessary for measuring case length
  Sizing and Decapping Cases

 The first operation required after cleaning the cases is sizing.  That is required in order to hold the bullet as the case expands upon firing.  For handgun cases a tungsten carbide die is the best option. That eliminates the need for lubrication that you would need in a typical steel die. While the older steel dies are cheaper they are not as good an investment as the tungsten types which are made by all makers.  The sizing die also decaps the case meaning the old primer is knocked out. If you have cases that have Berdan primers, discard them. They have two off center holes which will break your decapping assembly. The Boxer primer has a center hole which is the better way to go. You will have some feel when sizing which is normal. If it is too easy or hard then you have a problem.  Too easy might mean a split case and too hard can mean that there is a smaller case inside or some dirt or a small pebble.

                                                                       45-70 Ammo

 Rifle cases are somewhat different in that there are no tungsten dies available for them. You need to lube the case body. Failure to do so will result in a case getting stuck in the die, requiring a difficult process to get the case out. Several makers make a stuck case remover kit to address that problem. There are various ways to lube including a lube pad or a paste. The body needs to be lubed but you don’t want to put too much around the neck and shoulder. If you do that you will have dents in the shoulder, which while not damaging look bad. In some instances you will have to disassemble the die and clean it out. The inside of the neck should be lubed with a dry lube so it is easier to pull the case out of the die. When you size a rifle case the neck is made too small and the neck expander brings the neck to the proper dimensions. There are several types of dies including neck sizing, full length and small base dies. The best option for typical reloading is the standard full length verity. Like the handgun dies you screw the sizing die down to touch the shell holder with the handle all the way down. Since rifle cases are larger and require more effort to size a larger press is desirable.

                                                    Favorite lube for rifle cases
 Rifle cases may stretch so it is necessary to check the length. Cases that are too long may be difficult to chamber and can cause high pressure and inconsistent ammo. What happens is the neck is shoved into the rifling which constricts it, causing these problems. You need a dial caliper or a case length gauge to check out the length. All of the reloading manuals give the proper length required for each round. If the length is ok you should chamfer the inside of the neck a little. That just cleans it a  little and may make it easier to seat the bullet. Just a little is enough. You can buy that tool as well as various case trimmers from different manufactures. For the case trimmer you will need to buy the correct collets and pilots.  All of this equipment is necessary to produce quality ammo

                                 Case Tumbler needed to clean your brass

Here is a u-tube video on sizing handgun cases. Much of that will apply to rifle brass.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Selecting Components

A reloading manual such as this Hornady edition is well worth the price and should be in your library.
   Selecting Components

 After you have primed your cases the next step is selecting the correct powder and bullet. There are about 150 types of powders available to the reloader but for most applications you have about a dozen to select from. There are powders made for rifles, then there are some for handguns and shotguns. In order to select the correct powder a reloading manual is necessary. Using the wrong powder will create nothing but bad situations. You can either blow up your gun or create duds depending on the type of mistake you make.

 The manual will give you several good powders for the cartridge that you are loading. These loads  have been developed in a ballistics lad by trained ballisticians so the data is reliable. I have been to a couple of bullet manufactures and I have seen the painstaking work that they go through to insure that the data is safe to use. Do not go above max listed loads or use powders that are not listed for that application. There are reasons for those listings. Also some information indicates that you should not use less then listed as that can cause a gun to blow up.
Case cleaner is necessary for a reloading operation

 Reloading ammo is a very safe hobby but you need to follow some rules and use common sense. Attention to detail is vital as well as having enough time to perform these tasks. As in any aspect of shooting safety is always first. One of the things that new reloaders tend to do is to try and squeeze the last foot second of velocity out of your loads. That practice isn’t always safe because if you change a component such as bullet brands pressure can go up. Also max loads are seldom more accurate or reliable. Remember your goal is to produce safe loads that function and are accurate. You will make some mistakes along the way but that is part of the process of learning.

 Once you get the powder and amount established then you need to select a bullet. The loading manuals have all of the standard types listed for the powder charge. Be sure that you use the bullet meant for the powder charge that you are using. For instance if you are loading 9 mm’s with a 115 grain bullet don’t switch to a 124 with the same powder charge. You should make a slight adjustment to compensate for the extra bullet weight. Never use a 147 grain bullet with a charge meant for a 115 grain slug. That will almost certainly create a dangerous high pressure situation. You will have to either reduce the powder amount or use a different powder altogether.  Don’t be cute and attempt to exceed the max loads. Even if you don’t blow up the gun case life will be shortened as high pressure will expand the primer pocket, rendering it useless for reloading. Modern guns are strongly built to withstand some abuse but that doesn’t give you a license to be foolish. The goal is to have safe loads that function in the gun.

Using the correct bullets will enhance your reloading experience.

 One of the good manuals is the Hornady 8th edition manual. Because there are so many new products coming on the market which includes powders, bullets and new calibers. The 8th edition covers many of the new developments plus has a lot of good reloading tips for reloaders of all levels. There are 1066 pages chock full of good info and I strongly recommend that you have a copy in your library. It is well worth the investment. For more info go to

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Priming The Cases

                                         Berdan Primers L and Boxers                        

     Priming The Cases

 Once you have sized the cases they should be inspected again for splits. Occasionally a case that looked good during the initial inspection will develop a split during resizing. That usually happens with empties that were fired several times. With good quality modern brass it usually isn’t a major problem but it does occur.  No sense putting a primer in a defective casing which is wasteful.
                                         Large and Small primers
 Another thing to be aware of is that the  primer pocket may have residue in it. Normally that doesn’t cause problems unless the case has been used several times. Excess residue will make primer seating more difficult. There are a couple of tools on the market that will clean out the pocket with no difficulty.   With most die sets you can seat the primer as well as flare the case. It is very important to seat the primer flush with the case or even .001 or .002 beneath the case head. If the primer sticks out you will have all kinds of problems from jamming to misfires. Occasionally you can have a slam fire which can be dangerous. There should be some feel when seating the primer but if the resistance is too much then there may be a reason such as a crimp in the primer pocket. Military cases typically have those and it is usually easier to put them in the recycle bin. Also there are two types of primers. The Berdan primer has two holes that are offset and should not be used. The Boxer has a hole in the center of that case and those are what you want to use as the dies are made to decap them. The other difference is the Berdan primer has the anvil in the case while the Boxer’s is located in the primer. Some foreign countries still use the Berdans as they are less expensive to make and work fine for the military. CCI Blazer aluminum cases also use them to prevent reloading them.  There are two sizes of primers, large and small. Also there are rifle and handgun primers as well as standard and magnum types. Be sure to use the correct one for your application.. If in doubt consult your reloading manual.

                                         Handgun calibers

 The other thing is the case needs to be flared or belled. That is necessary so you don’t shave the bullet when seating. You can also ruin the case if you don’t bell it enough. You also want to avoid ever belling it as that will ruin the case or make it more difficult to load. Excess flaring will also cause the case to split at the mouth. Lead bullets typically require more belling then jacketed types. As  a rule you want to bell them the least amount that you can  to enhance case life.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Let's Get Started

Star progressive loader for experienced reloaders

                                                Let’s  Get Started

 Let us assume that you have your work area set up and have the dies that you need for the particular caliber that will be loaded. We will start with a rimless straight case that is commonly found in modern auto pistols. They would include the 380, 9 mm, 40 auto, 10 mm and the 45 ACP. You should have a there die set which includes the sizer, belling die and bullet seating die. Also don’t forget the shell holder. Your dies should be tungsten carbide as they last a lot longer and are only a few dollars more.  Also it isn’t usually necessary to lubricate the cases as you would with a typical steel set. Several companies offer these dies at reasonable prices.

 Before you start to load all of you brass should be inspected. If they have been shot then you could have splits in a few of them especially after a few firings.   Cases need to be sorted by caliber and to make sure that you don’t have any thing in the cases such as a smaller one or a pebble. If you try and decap a case with something else inside then you will break your decapping pin which is annoying. Always have some spares just in case.  If you are loading general target loads it isn’t necessary to sort by brand. As long as they are quality cases in good shape brand purity isn’t that important. Competition and other specialized ammo is different.  If the brass is grungy then you might consider cleaning it.  There are a couple of ways to do that. I like a vibrator type of tumbler with some crushed walnut and cleaning solution. An hour or two will make them look like new as well as making them easier to inspect.

 Once they are cleaned and inspected then you are ready to start. You put your shell holder in the ram making sure it is all the way in.  Next your bring your handle all the way down and screw your sizing die in until it touches the shell holder. You then slip your case into the shell holder and bring the handle all the way down. That sizes the case as well as takes out the spent primer. You should feel a little resistance, which is normal, but if it is excessive or too easy then there is a problem. You would need to stop and find out what is going on. If you can’t figure it out chances are the answer lies on one of the reloading manuals you bought. You did buy a couple didn’t you?  The sizing is necessary because a case expands upon firing and won’t hold a bullet unless properly sized. You can perform this on all of your empty cases prior to going to the next step. Once you get the rhythm it goes fairly quickly even with a single stage press.  
Single stage press with die set