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The Ultimate Reloading Manual
Wolfe Publishing Group
  • reloading manual
  • alliant reloading data
  • reloading brass
  • shotshell reloading
  • bullet reloading
The Ultimate Reloading Manual
hornady superperformance

Prepping Brass

Author:
Date: Jun 12 2009

These cases have been prepped and are ready to be loaded. Regardless of the process used to prepare
brass, it needs to be consistent and conducive to accuracy.

The key component to building ammunition is the cartridge case. It is, after all, what we reload. A lot time is spent and a lot of ink is dribbled on the proper load, powder burn rates and bullet selection, but all this is secondary to prepping a fired case so you can tinker with primers, powders and bullets while in search of that magically accurate and terminally effective handload. Improperly prepared brass will give you a poor foundation to build upon.

Though I’m sure the majority of visitors to LoadData.com are accomplished handloaders who have developed a standard operating procedure for brass preparation, it is highly likely some of the traffic seen here is made up of folks new to handloading. I think this is even truer now with the current, politically inspired firearms and ammunition buying frenzy. Just last month I conducted a handloading seminar for the NRA, and of the 350+ attendees, two-thirds of them had never handloaded before.

It only makes sense some of these new handloaders will drop by LoadData.com looking for guidance, possibly about the preparation of brass. There are multitudes of ways to properly prepare brass for loading. I haven’t tried them all, but I have tried several and have settled on a method that seems to most consistently produce accurate ammunition. So, regardless of whether you are new to handloading or have been doing it longer than I, here’s a process to consider.

Reloading dies can be easily taken apart or configured
to allow you to size, size and expand the
neck, size and decap or all three. Richard has
found that expanding the neck is optional and
often detrimental to accuracy.

The first thing I do with fired rifle cartridge cases is lube them. I still use a lube pad for this process. It may not be as fast or as trendy as spraying 100 cases at a time, but it’s still fairly quickly done. I’ll lay five to six cases on a pad lightly covered with RCBS Case Lube-2 and roll them back and forth. Mostly, I work with brass quantities of less than 200, so I don’t consider this method a hindrance. When I’m bulk loading with the Dillon 550 I will spray on the lube.

The next step is sizing. When working with bottleneck cases, I rarely use the expander ball or decapping pin unless I’m loading for volume with the Dillon. This may seem odd, but I’ve found that often the expander ball will cause case necks to come out of the die crookedly. I discovered this by using an RCBS CaseMaster to check cases sized with and without an expander ball. In almost every instance, cases sized without an expander ball had less than .003 inch neck runout, and cases sized with an expander ball showed a variation in runout, sometimes as high as .007 inch. Crooked case necks mean that bullets will be seated crookedly, and bullets that are not concentric with the case will not shoot as accurately as those that are.

If you just can’t stand the thought of not using an expander ball, you can lube the inside of the case neck. This helps some, but I’ve yet to see it produce sized cases with necks as consistently straight as those sized without an expander ball. Of course, if the case mouths are dented, you have no choice but to use the expander ball, and some lube applied with a brush inside the case neck does guard against severely crooked necks.

If you must use the expander ball when sizing cases, apply some lube to the inside of the case neck with a
nylon brush. This will help guard against the expander ball causing case necks to be out of alignment with
the case body.


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