Ammunition for Long Range: Part 4

Continuing with our handloading tips we’ll cover some case preparation steps.

Tumbling: There are a lot of competing ideas around this. Do you use liquid and stainless steel media or crushed corn-cob or walnut? Do you vibratory tumble or ultrasonic clean. I don’t honestly know that it matters. I use corn-cob media and vibratory tumbling. I do a 2 stage tumble. First is with clean fresh media to do the hard cleaning then I use a different set of media that I toss a lump of chrome & brass polish into. My cases emerge clean and shiny. Tumble your brass before you deprime. This will help keep grit out of your depriming die. Keep your media fresh. Don’t overfill your tumbler.

Trimming: RCBS makes a slick case trimmer (Trim Pro-2) that locks on the extraction groove. More recent examples of trimmers I’ve seen from some other brands seem to use this strange collet based design that clamps onto the rim itself. I hate the collet system. It’s not a repeatable system. What you don’t do for sure is use anything that tries to trim brass fast. Fast = inconsistent. You should only need to trim your brass every few firings if you’re not running pressures super high and you’re only neck sizing. If you full length resize, then trimming will probably be necessary each time you reload the brass. Just make sure you get them all the same size and you trim only as far as the TTL value given in your manual.

De-Burr/Chamfer: Trimming causes a large burr to build up on the case mouth. When you deburr don’t try to knife edge your brass. That weakens it and causes case neck splits and uneven neck tension. You only need to use the chamfer/deburr tool just enough to remove those burrs.

Primer Pocket: Military brass commonly has the primer crimped in. It makes depriming a little harder but it makes re-priming almost impossible. There are a lot of ways to remove the crimp. The accepted method is primer pocket swagers/uniformers. Those are nice but high effort and I’ve had more case rims damaged with them than I care to deal with. What’s worked for me is to use the deburring tool to shave off the crimp ring around the primer. A few good turns is all it takes. The upside is that it chamfers the primer pocket so primer seating is a little easier. Be smooth however you do it. What you should NEVER do is use a drill bit. You’ll likely end up over-sizing the primer pocket and have some high pressure gas released in your face for your trouble.

Case Sorting: I would recommend you sort by case head stamp and by number of times the brass has been used. As you fire them the brass flows a bit and the cases change capacity. If you keep the cases the same the whole time you’ll have more accurate and easier to produce ammo.

Discarding brass: You should accept that brass is a consumable. It’s consumed slowly so you get to use it a few times normally but still, it wears out. You need to learn when to toss a case. If the neck splits, pitch it. If the case was hard to extract or the primer blew out or the side split or you see the shiny ring of incipient case head separation. The only thing keeping your eyes away from 50,000 psi gasses of fire is that case. If you don’t trust your vision to it, toss it out. 30 cents or even a dollar isn’t worth going blind or being otherwise maimed.

Here’s a good order of operations: Fire, tumble, inspect, size, inspect, trim, prime, inspect, charge (+ visual inspect), bullet seating, final inspection, boxing. Fire and repeat.

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