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Author Topic: Handloading Part 1: Typi-Load Case Preparation by Dutch-Hunter  (Read 392 times)

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Handloading Part 1: Typi-Load Case Preparation

In this part I wanted to get the most important aspect of reloading out of the way, Case Preparation. If you don’t want to invest the time here then sell your equipment and use off the shelf ammo. I have listed the steps that I go through when I prepare rifle cases for reloading. These steps are fairly simple for those familiar with reloading and can be accomplished fairly quickly. After you get the hang of it you can “BANG OUT” (get it) between 50 to 75 cases and hour.


These steps and tips are intended for reloaders with intermediate to advanced skills. I intentionally did not address the very basics, as this information is available in just about ALL of the reloading manuals, and many web sites. Instead, I’ll discuss things I've learned (by making mistakes) along the way that are NOT necessarily readily available; my intention is to pass along some acquired knowledge and techniques.
1.  The first is to clean the brass.
 clean cases are easier to resize,
 it is easier on the dies (no grit or residue to wear them),
 cleaning with the old primer still in place protects the pocket and flash hole, (Refer to Tip 1 below)
 if you clean after decapping, you will have to poke the media grains out of the flash holes and primer pockets.

Tip 1: Some people decap first, then clean and then resize. The reason for this is to let your tumbler clean the primer pockets. I have found that this provides no real benefit, as the tumbler does not clean the primer pockets to my satisfaction and will be dealt with in steps 6 & 7.
There are three types of case cleaners: Ultrasonic, Vibratory and Rotary. I have never used an ultrasonic so I cannot provide any insight about them. In my opinion the Vibratory tumblers clean faster and better than Rotary. There are some good vibratory tumblers on the market and only slightly higher in cost than Rotary ones and less spendy than Ultrasonic. I began with a Rotary and then switched to Vibratory. The media I have been using for quite some time now consists of mason sand, walnut hull and corncob media (10/40/40), and add a good polish. Either type of the tumblers work best when they are full (with media and brass) particularly rotary ones. If there are stubborn deposits or staining on the brass that the tumbler does not remove they may be polished off with fine steel wool (0000) or a polish that does NOT contain ammonia. Ammonia reacts chemically with [dissolves] brass severely weakening it!

Tip 2: Put your brass in first and then the media; tumble the lot for a couple of minutes and top of with more media. Rotary tumbling may slightly dent the case mouths, but are straightened out by the resizing die. Vibratory cleaning does not hurt the cases at all, but does work to harden them slightly.

Tip 3: As soon as you have room for it and can afford one, get a ROTARY media/case separator. These are basically “baskets on a pole” that spin over a “catch tub”'. They quickly separate ALL the media from your cases. I like the ROTARY ones better than the sifters because the rotary separators gently knock the brass about, clearing out ALL media including most of it that gets stuck inside the cases. You can buy walnut hulls and ground corncob cheaper from pet supply stores or even supermarkets. Just be careful NOT to use 'large diameter' media when tumbling small mouthed cases, as the media can pack and jam inside the case, making it a CHORE to remove even with a media/case separator.

Tip 4: For really filthy cases I give them a bath.  I use a water and vinegar (6 oz. of vinegar to 24 oz. of water) case cleaning solution to get most of the crud off. I then let them dry, and tumble as usual. This solution tends to turn the brass to a slight pink hue. Polishing in your tumbler will remove this hue, restoring the “brass shine”.

Tip 5: After a while, the inside of your tumbler will inevitably get dirty. You will see brown/gray deposits along the rim and at the base of the "central cone". Some people quarter a paper towel, and put it in with their brass. They say it works great. I've tried it, and it works OK. However, every so often, after emptying my tumbler, I take a good strong cleaner like Fantastic or even Windex, spray it in, and clean it out with a paper towel.

2.   Next, check the case exterior for damage. Examine every case especially the neck for defects and toss out cases with any cracks, holes or bulges no matter how minor. This is much easier to do on polished, shiny, clean cases than on cases that are clean, but not shiny.             
Tip 6: Using a lighted desktop magnifying glass helps in this step. Good light and a close up look will make a lot of difference. Adhere to this old saying; when in doubt, toss it out!

3.   Now check the inside of the case for thinned out brass (separation) at the expansion ring just above the case head. A stiff piece of wire (a piece of a wire coat hanger works well) about 6" long with one end sharpened at about a 45 degree angle. Then, bend about 1/8" of this sharpened end to a 90 degree angle (the sharpened point should be at the bottom) with a pair of pliers. It's important to sharpen the “feeler” end to increase sensitivity. If the end is blunt, it won't “fall into” the separation ring. Bend the other end (your handle) into a loop so it will fit 2 or 3 fingers to make the tool easier to handle. A stiff wire works better than a soft wire because it transmits feeling to your hand much better. Gently pull the wire back and forth near the case head to feel inside the case with this tool, rotating the case as you probe up and down so you check the entire inside circumference. This should only take a few seconds per case. It will be very noticeable to you when a case is experiencing separation. Discard the case if you feel any indication of separation. A blown case is just NOT WORTH the trouble it can cause. Remember, when in doubt, toss it out!

4.   The next step is to polish the INSIDE of the case neck, using a simple homemade tool that holds stainless steel wool which attaches to a drill. This simple tool polishes the edge of the case neck to remove all tiny burrs. The tool is simply an old worn out small caliber nylon bristled bore cleaning brush with stainless steel wool wound on it. I chuck it in my drill press run it at slow speed (3 to 4 hundred RPM), and run the cases over the brush. I suppose you could use your cordless drill too just make sure it is held down firmly. This procedure aids in resizing. This step is mainly for the sake of my dies, but it also improves accuracy by providing a more consistent bullet release.

5.   This step may be skipped when using new brass. I included it to be thorough because it only needs to be done once or twice to each case. Clean the burrs out of the flash hole from inside the case using (guess what?), a flash hole deburring tool to. These burrs have been blamed for uneven powder ignition. Be gentle you do not want to increase the diameter just clean it up. This tool costs about $15-20, and this step only takes a few seconds per case. A few twists per case, and you're done. This tool can also be chucked into a drill press, and run at slow speed it works great. One thing you should do is to ease the brass in and out of the flash hole once or twice to clear any brass chips to prevent clogging, binding, or damage to the cutting edge of the tool.

6.   The primer pocket must now be made uniform with a (you guessed it) primer pocket uniformer tool. They cost $25-35. Once again, the operation can be done quickly by hand. A few twists per case, and you're done, and you've also just cleaned your primer pocket of excess residue. This tool can also be chucked into a drill press or cordless drill, and run at slow speed it works great. Ease the tool squarely into the primer pocket, easing the brass in and out a few times to clear any brass chips to prevent clogging, binding, or damage to the cutting edge of the tool.

Tip 7: I do this every time I reload the brass after the first firing; it functions mainly as a primer pocket cleaner. In addition I have found that brass does indeed flow into the primer pockets of my brass at each firing. I usually take a little brass out with the primer residue each time. New brass should be clean and ready to prime.

7.   Brush your case necks with an inside case neck lube brush with mica dry lube, or simply dip them into the dry mica or the lube of your choice. The amount you use will be learned; too little and resizing is more difficult and hard on the die, too much and you’ll have to re-clean it.

8.   Sizing the case: Full Length: this step is for any cases that have not previously been fired in the gun (fire former). If the case was NOT fired in the rifle you are loading for, you must full-length size the brass, yes even new brass to be safe. However, if the fired cases are to be fired again in the same bolt action rifle; see Neck Sizing below. If you full-length size the brass, lubricate the brass, run it through your full length sizing die, and then wipe or better yet tumble them clean.

9.   Neck Sizing: Very much the same as above you are, however, only sizing the neck. Actually the operation is identical just a little less force is normally required.

Tip 8: This works great for bolt action rifles. If you have a semi-auto or lever action rifle you should full length size every time or your finished cartridges may not feed or chamber properly.

Tip 9: As you run cases you’ll develop a “feel” of the force you’ll need to apply to the press handle. Always be aware of changes in this force, it is your indicator that something is wrong, both too easy and too hard indicates a problem with that case, re-inspect and as always;  when in doubt, toss it out!

Tip 10: Always make sure your dies are CLEAN a little WD-40, or similar product, on a cotton swab (like a Q-Tip) works well. I clean every die thoroughly when I get them new (they are usually coated to protect them from corrosion) and a quick cleaning of every die after every use extends their life of service.       
10.   Trimming the case comes next and use care during this step because you can easily make them too short. You should measure them before, during and after trimming. I chuck the cutter with correct pilot in my drill press at about 3 to 4 hundred RPM, and carefully run all the brass through. Make sure you line the case up STRAIGHT, or it may BIND on the pilot. If you're having trouble with binding, lightly lube the insides of the necks.

Tip 11: This is where you’ll want to have a good caliper, I prefer a digital one. This measurement is very critical. Make a mistake here and; when in doubt, toss it out!

11.   You are almost done; the case mouth must now be dressed with a deburring and chambering tool. I chuck the INSIDE deburring tool in the drill press (again) at about 3 to 4 hundred RPM. This is quick and easy, and the tool self-centers. Then I change to the OUTSIDE chambering tool; most have a shaft that keeps the cases from jumping around and keeps the cases pretty much centered on the tool. Do this just enough to remove burrs, a touch or two on each tool is adequate. Do not sharpen your case mouths.

12.   Polish the INSIDE of the case neck again (step 5 above) with steel wool.

13.   That is it! Your cases are now ready to continue to the next step in the Typi-Loading Method. Which would be seating the primers; but wait a minute we should not prime them until we are ready to charge them with powder and seat the bullet. In other words finish them. Let’s next visit “Bullet Preparation” shall we, there are some tips and tricks you may like.

End of Part 1   
Time for the Gun Geek Roundtable (Additions, Corrections and Suggestions)

BO: Good Article. Very easy to understand, laid out for anyone to follow....You might get a call from RCBS and they might want you to do a show on case prep...
Are you going to discuss the advantages of neck sizing versus full length sizes in another article? I have a RCBS Prep station (had it for lots of years) and a Lyman electric trimmer.  Mounted both of them on a 1 x 12 4 ft. long. When I start reloading, I will throw my brass in the tumbler for about 30 minutes to an hour and then start my sizing process. My resizing press is in the garage mounted on a metal support pole. So once I get through with all my prep, I will throw the brass back into the tumbler for a long cleaning.

The first thing I do is to inspect the brass. I have a lighted magnifying glass I do this with. If is see a problem with a piece of brass I will generally toss it or get out my 60X microscope eye piece and look at the brass to see if there is any problems with the rifle extraction, feed or any other problem the brass may tell you about you rifle. In other words if I see a pattern on the brass, I will get out my 60X.

My case prep is similar to yours, once I get through inspecting it, I will toss it in the tumbler for about an hour. Then get it out and start neck sizing it. I keep track of how many times I have sized each piece of brass. When it is new I treat it as if it is used. I will go through the same steps as a shot piece of brass. After the first shot then I will neck size it for three more times, then on the fourth time I will full size it again and then neck size it three more times before tossing it after seven firings. Just my standard. The reason why I full size it after four firings, is that the shoulder will move forward after each firing so a full length on the forth load is right for me. Every third time is also good....just depends on the person.

I will start out with 50 new Lapua pieces and place a label inside the reloading box. I will circle after each time I resize brass. I only do it 50 at a time. I will not do it 10 here and 10 there pieces, doing the whole lot of 50 at a time is the only way to keep track of how many firings for each piece of brass. Short action boxes are one color, long action is another and standard mags are another and the WSM are yet another color. I know I am anal about my tracking...that is what working in nuclear plants will teach you...track everything. That one time you don't it the time it comes back and bites you in the butt!!!...LOL...

Also I will toss out brass if the primer pocket is to lose! This doesn't happen often but it does happen. I agree with you on primer pockets, lots of people over look this, but as you get older and wiser you don't overlook anything.

I don't lube my inside of my case necks before seating the bullet. I want as much surface contact as possible between the bullet and brass. Just me.

I agree with you about the tumbler, I change out my media every year and when I empty out the old media, then I will also clean the tumbler....

I will do one last neck turning before actually do the loading of the round. My seating press is in the gun room and when I get ready to load, I will sit down and do one last neck turning and truing before loading the round.

After the round in loaded and put back into its ammo box, I will place a piece of foam between the end of the bullets and the top of the case. I have several different thickness of foam. But this keeps the rounds from rattling around in the box and keeps them in place. Have been doing this for many years.

I do the same thing you do on your dies. I too use WD-40 to clean them....have a zillion q-tips. I need to buy stock in Johnson and Johnson! While my brass is in the tumbler the first time, I will clean my sizing die using those zillion q-tips and WD-40.....good stuff except around scopes!!

Even though I have a work station that saves me time, I still do a lot of tasks by hand. I just feel better doing it that way. Just something about getting your hands on the brass!

Everyone has their own way of reloading and as long as they do it safely it's ok with me......

Thanks - Bo

« Last Edit: March 04, 2013, 09:01:29 AM by Puddle Jumper »


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