February 9th, 2012

Fire-Forming Dasher Brass with Pistol Powder

Forum member Skeeter has a 6mm Dasher falling block varmint rifle. The Dasher case is based on the 6mm BR Norma cartridge with the shoulder blown forward about 0.100″ and out to 40°. This gives the Dasher roughly 3.5 grains added capacity compared to the standard 6BR.

Last year, Skeeter needed to form 300 cases for varmint holiday. Skeeter decided to fire-form his brass without bullets. This method avoids barrel wear* and saves on components. There are various ways to do this, but Skeeter chose a method using pistol/shotgun powder, some tissue to hold the powder in place, Cream of Wheat filled to within an 1/8″ of top of the neck, and a “plug” of tissue paper to hold it all in place. Shown below are cases filled with a pistol/shotgun powder charge topped with Cream of Wheat and then a tissue paper plug.

To ensure the case headspaced firmly in his Dasher chamber, Skeeter created a “false shoulder” where the new neck-shoulder junction would be after fire-forming. After chamfering his case mouths, Skeeter necked up all his cases with a 0.257″ mandrel (one caliber oversized). Then he used a bushing neck-sizing die to bring the top half of the neck back down to 0.267″ to fit his 0.269″ chamber. The photo below shows how the false shoulder is created.

After creating the false shoulder, Skeeter chambered the cases in his rifle to ensure he could close the bolt and that he had a good “crush fit” on the false shoulder, ensuring proper headspace. All went well.

The next step was determining the optimal load of pistol powder. Among a variety of powders available, Skeeter chose Hodgdon Titewad as it is relatively inexpensive and burns clean. The goal was to find just the right amount of Titewad that would blow the shoulder forward sufficiently. Skeeter wanted to minimize the amount of powder used and work at a pressure that was safe for his falling block action.

Working incrementally, Skeeter started at 5.0 grains of Titewad, working up in 0.5 grain increments. As you can see, the 5.0 grain charge blew the shoulder forward, but left it a hemispherical shape. At about 7.0 grains of Titewad, the edge of the shoulder and case body was shaping up. Skeeter decided that 8.5 grains of Titewad was the “sweet spot”. He tried higher charges, but the shoulder didn’t really form up any better. It will take another firing or two, with a normal match load of rifle powder and a bullet seated, to really sharpen up the shoulders. Be sure to click on the “View Larger Image” link to get a good view of the cases.

The process proved to be a success. Skeeter now has hundreds of fire-formed Dasher cases and he hasn’t had to put one bullet through his nice, new match-grade barrel. The “bulletless” Cream of Wheat method allowed him to fire-form in a tight-necked barrel without neck-turning the brass first. The only step now remaining is to turn the newly Dasher-length necks down about .0025″ to fit his 0.269″ chamber. (To have no-turn necks he would need an 0.271″ or 0.272″ chamber).

Skeeter didn’t lose a single case: “As for the fire-forming loads, I had zero split cases and no signs of pressure in 325 cases fire-formed. Nor did I have any misfires or any that disbursed COW into the action of the firearm. So the COW method really worked out great for me and saved me a lot of money in powder and bullets.” To learn more about Skeeter’s fire-forming process, read this Dasher Fire-Forming Forum Thread.

*Skeeter did have a fire-forming barrel, but it was reamed with a .269 chamber like his 10-twist Krieger “good” barrel. If he fire-formed with bullets, he would have to turn all 300 necks to .267″ BEFORE fire-forming so that loaded rounds would fit in the chamber. Judging just how far to turn is problematic. There’s no need to turn the lower part of the neck that will eventually become shoulder–but how far down the neck to turn is the issue. By fire-forming without bullets now he only has to turn about half the original neck length, and he knows exactly how far to go.

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