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Making Good with Range Brass
By Sterling White
I often hear from other shooters or competitors that they never pick up range brass because they have had too many issues. Being a consumer of range brass with a number of lessons learned I’ve been asked by several friends to write down my routine. Picking up someone else’s spent cases and taking them home is something that I routinely do without reservation.
Over the years I’ve developed an easy process that seems to work well. You can be your own judge whether it will work or not. I load on a progressive press – a Dillon 650 because I enjoy the ease at which the press works and its accessories. The case feeder increases the efficiency and output dramatically. There are other progressives on the market that will work as well however a single stage press will get the job done. A couple of steps need to occur before we put the brass to the press which includes sorting and tumbling. These two steps will save you a lot of headaches! There is nothing worse than having a piece of 22lr stuck inside a case during the de-priming operation.
Step 1 – Initial Case Prep: Once the brass has been tumbled or cleaned remove all non 556 or 223 pieces of brass. In preparation for sizing and de-priming add a small amount of lubrication to the brass placing several hundred rounds in the case feeder. Before starting the de-priming and sizing process remove the powder dump and back the bullet seating and crimping dies out so that the sizing die is the only tool being used. I will run a batch of 500-1000 cases through this step which will get us set up for the next step.
Step 2 – Trimming Cases: There are a number of good trimmers on the market. I use the WFT2 made by Little Crow Gunworks. The trimmer is attached to a half inch drill which is locked in a vice. It’s also a good idea to place a catch tray below so that shavings are captured and can be tossed afterwards. This trimmer is designed to use full length sized brass. By only neck sizing there is a possibility that cases will get stuck inside the trim chamber. The instructions that come with the trimmer say to hold the case with one hand while and squeeze the drills on button with the other. What I found that works well and increases efficiency is to set the drill on a low RPM which frees up the right hand to assist with trimming. I hold the brass with a pair of pliers which retains the brass and prevents it from spinning. One of my lessons learned! The left hand applies a slight about of pressure pressing the case inwards against the cutter. Be sure to wear eye protection and watch out for small pieces of brass on the floor if you enjoy running around in your bare feet!
Step 3 – Case Deburring: The tool pictured is a RCBS deburring tool stuck inside a deep socket which is attached to the drill. Other deburring tools are on the market however I’m not sure that they have the character that this one does (smiles). They say that necessity is the mother of invention!
After the brass is trimmed to length the leading edge of the case is flat and will sometimes have a small brass burr. Running the drill at a low RPM and touching the case against the deburring tool with slight pressure will chamfer the inside edge of the case. It is my opinion that this is a very important step in the process. Why? The chamfer removes any brass that may scratch or damage the bullet during seating process and in my mind that leads to better accuracy from loads. I’ve not found any reason to chamfer the outside edge because the crimp die takes care of this step when the case is reloaded.
Step 4 – Primer Pocket Holes: A lot of the brass that I pick up has been crimped which usually comes from a requirement put out by the military. Loading a new primer into a crimped primer pocket usually results in the new primer being deformed or even destroyed. With a flip of the wrist I turn the brass over and touch the primer pocket to the reamer leaving a slight beveled edge leading into the primer pocket. Remember, we don’t want to alter the dimensions of the primer pocket; we just want to make sure it accepts a new primer without deforming it.
Step 5 – Shake It: Steps 2-4 are somewhat messy and it’s a good idea to clean things up a bit. I like to take the brass that has been prepared and run it back through a media shaker over a garbage can. This helps remove any filings or trimming before running the brass through my reloading machine.
Step 6 – Reloading Time: I will reset all of the stations on the press so that the powder dump is ready to distribute Ramshot Tac, primers are loaded into the tube feeder; and, the bullet seating and crimp dies are reset back into their proper settings to deliver and set bullets into the cases. With a case feeder loaded with lubed brass now is the time to start pulling the handle. Within an hour or two the loading operation is complete.
Using a case check gauge made from the same machine that cut your barrels chamber is money in the bank. Visit with the manufacturer and see if one is available for purchase. Not all chambers are the same, not all dies are the same, and not all case check gauges are the same. Our goal when reloading is to create ammunition that is dependable, accurate, and consistent. I have found that adding the previous steps to this process insures higher quality and consistent rounds without a lot of waste. Stay within the specifications of the loading manual and enjoy the rewards of your efforts. Keep them in the A-Zone ~ Sterling