December 20th, 2014
Butch Lambert of ShadeTree Engineering provided this tip. Butch notes that many 6 PPC benchrest group shooters also enjoy shooting in score matches. But to be really competitive in the BR for score game, that means shooting a 30BR, which has a wider, .308-class rim (0.4728″ diameter). Likewise, if you want to compete in 600-yard registered BR events or in varmint matches, you probably want to run a bigger case, such as the 6BR, 6mm Dasher, or 6-6.5×47. Those cartridges also have the larger 0.4728″ rims.
To convert a PPC-boltface action to shoot the bigger cases you can spend a ton of money and buy a new bolt. That can cost hundreds of dollars. The simpler solution is to turn down the diameter of the larger cases on a lathe. Butch explains: “We’ve seen plenty of interest in rebating case rims. This lets you shoot a 30BR in score matches using your PPC action. All you need is a new barrel. This saves buying another bolt, receiver, or rifle if you have a PPC boltface. Anyone who has access to a lathe can do this job pretty easily. Yesterday I turned 150 case in about an hour.” Below are photos of a rebated 6BR case, along with the lathe form tool Butch uses to rebate the case rims.
Cutting Head for Rebating Rims
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December 10th, 2014
Powder Valley Inc. (PVI), a leading vendor of ammo and reloading components, warned us to be prepared for price hikes on Lapua-brand cartridge brass, bullets, and loaded ammunition:
“Lapua has announced a 4-8% price increase for 2015. Anyone who would like to order at 2014 prices please do so now. We will accept backorders on all Lapua from now until December 12 and these items will be filled at 2014 prices as soon as the items become available.”
Cutting to the chase, Powder Valley is saying it will honor current Lapua prices for back-orders, so long as you place your order by December 12th, 2014. So, if you need brass (or those ultra-consistent Lapua Scenar-L bullets), order now before the price goes up. Of course, you can also buy in-stock Lapua brass/bullets inventory from PVI and other major vendors including Bullets.com, Bruno Shooters Supply, Grafs.com, and Midsouth Shooters Supply.
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December 10th, 2014
Bryce Towsley has authored an informative article on Reclaiming .223 Rem Brass. Writing for Shooting Illustrated Online, Towsley confesses: “I’m a brass horder…. I end every shooting match on my hands and knees. If the rest of the competitors want to litter the range with their discarded cases, I see it as my civic duty to clean up the mess.” If you burn through a lot of .223 Rem ammo on the varmint fields or in multi-gun matches, we suggest you read Towsley’s article.
Towsley advises that you need to be cautious with range pick-up brass: “Range brass is full of dirt, dust, sand and debris that can be damaging to loading dies, as well as causing other problems.” So, range pick-up brass must be cleaned and then sorted carefully. Towsley explains that you should toss brass that is badly dented, and you have to make sure to remove the primer pocket crimp in military brass. This can be done with a crimp reamer or a swaging tool such as the Dillon Super Swage 600. The latter works well, but Towsley cautions: “For the swager to work properly, you must sort the cases by brand and lot, and then readjust the swager for each new lot.”
Trimming Quantities of Brass
Before loading, “reclaimed” range brass should, of course, be full-length sized and you should trim all the brass to the same length. “Cases that are too long can cause all kinds of problems”, explains Towsley.
We envy the system Towsley uses to trim brass. He has a Dillon Rapid Trim 1200B set up on the top of a single-stage press: “You simply insert a case into the shell holder and raise the ram to trim it instantly. The process is so fast, it almost feels like cheating.” The Rapid Trim is a very neat gadget — it even has an attachment for a vacuum hose to remove the cuttings. The photo at right shows a 1200B installed on a Dillon progressive press.
We definitely recommend you read Bryce Towsley’s Reclaiming Range Brass Article from start to finish. The article offers useful advice that will help you reload any rifle cartridge — not just .223 Rem range brass. Towsley also showcases many good labor-saving devices that can speed up and simplify the process of bulk rifle cartridge reloading.
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December 4th, 2014
Every year we anxiously await the new product announcement from Lapua. In 2014, Lapua brought out new bullets and new cartridge brass — .221 Fireball and .50 BMG. For 2015, Lapua once again brings out new brass offerings, this time three new flavors of cartridge brass, all made to Lapua’s exacting standards. First, Lapua will introduce factory 300 AAC Blackout (300 BLK) brass. This promises to take this highly-efficient, AR-friendly .30-caliber cartridge to another accuracy level. Second, Lapua will offer premium brass for the 7mm-08 cartridge, a very popular round among hunters and silhouette shooters. Lastly, in 2015, Lapua will produce 8x57mm JS brass. That’s good news for fans of this classic Mauser cartridge.
300 AAC Blackout Brass
Lapua’s Press release states: “Few cartridges have generated as much immediate interest as the 300 Blackout. Standardized by AAC, this diminutive cartridge is derived from the 223 Remington. Intended specifically for use in suppressed firearms, the versatility of the Blackout has appealed to a much broader range of shooters than just the audience for which it was originally designed. [Originally] intended to drive 220 grain bullets at subsonic velocities, the switch to lightweight bullets such as the 125 grain offerings delivers performance very similar to the venerable 7.62×39 cartridge. This makes the 300 Blackout potent enough for a wide range of shooting tasks, from certain tactical applications to many short range hunting situations involving medium-sized game. The ability for many 5.56mm/223 systems to be switched over to the 300 Blackout, merely by changing barrels, makes this an incredibly versatile combination. Lapua brings over nine decades of case manufacturing knowledge, precision and quality to the new Blackout, assuring the shooter of the very best performance.”
7mm-08 Remington Brass
Lapua notes that it’s new 7mm-08 brass is made to very high standards, benefiting hunters as well as competitors: “The 7mm-08 came to dominate the High Power Silhouette rifle game shortly after its introduction, offering a superb combination of power, light recoil and accuracy. Since then, it has also been used to win National Championships in High Power competition, and become a staple for hunters as well. With ballistic performance exceeding that of the time honored 7x57mm Mauser, but suited to a shorter action, the 7mm-08 is an ideal cartridge for most big game hunting. Lapua brings… state-of-the-art manufacturing methods, combined with old world craftsmanship, to the production of these cases. Primer pockets and flash holes are held to strict tolerances to withstand repeated firings and reloadings. After final necking of the case, they are finished with the proper anneal [for] accuracy and durability.” Lapua also notes that it offers two new 7mm Scenar bullets, which will work very well in the new 7mm-08 cartridge brass.
8x57mm JS Brass
Last but not least, Lapua is producing 8x57mm JS brass. Lapua notes that: “When the 8x57mm JS cartridge was introduced in 1905, its innovative use of a high velocity and relatively light weight pointed bullet design revolutionized infantry combat. An outgrowth on the original 8x57J military round, the 8x57mm JS round served the German military in both world wars, and became a popular sporting cartridge in any area where there was a strong German influence. From African plains game to European stag and boar, the 8mm Mauser has earned an enviable reputation as a big game round in a wide array of conditions. Accurate, versatile and powerful, the 8x57mm JS still serves the sporting community well for a host of hunting applications. In answer to the requests of the many devotees of this fine cartridge, Lapua is pleased to announce our introduction of the new 8x57mmJS case. The new 8x57mmJS will deliver the same accurate, reliable performance for which Lapua cases are world renowned. This means tough, durable cases that will not only withstand repeated loadings, but retain their accuracy shot after shot. [Lapua's 8x57mm JS brass offers] very tight tolerances in neck wall concentricity and overall uniformity.”
See Lapua’s New Products at SHOT Show 2015
If you plan to attend SHOT Show in Las Vegas, stop by and visit the Lapua Exhibit (booth #11929). With luck, samples of the new 7mm-08, 300 BLK, and 8×57 JS brass will be available to view. Lapua engineers will be on hand to talk about Lapua brass and bullets, and explain the production processes that make Lapua brass so durable and consistent. In recent years, in the world of centerfire competition, Lapua brass has absolutely dominated the winner’s circles as well as the record-books.
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November 19th, 2014
Many shooters, particular those who shoot vintage military rifle matches, reload once-fired military cartridge brass. This brass may be high-quality and stout, but you may encounter a primer crimp* that interferes with the seating of a new primer. There are a variety of dedicated, military-crimp tools on the market, such as Dillon’s excellent Super Swage 600 tool that “rolls the crimp away”. But the Dillon tool costs $100.95 and takes quite a bit of room on your reloading bench. If you don’t want to drop a C-note and give up valuable bench space — here’s another (much cheaper) solution.
If you already have a Wilson case trimmer set-up, you can ream away those military crimps using an affordable Wilson accessory — the Primer Pocket Reamer (large #PPR-210, small #PPR-175). This $32.99 accessory is used in conjunction with a Wilson case trimmer and case-holder as shown below.
On his Riflemans Journal website, German Salazar shows how to use the Wilson primer pocket reamer to remove military crimps on Lake City .30-06 cartridge brass. German explains: “The case goes into the Wilson case-holder, the same one used for case trimming, and the reamer replaces the trimmer head in the tool base. The threaded rod on the left side, which is normally used to regulate trim length has no use for this operation and it is simply backed out. Hold the case-holder as you turn the reamer into the primer pocket, it cuts easily and quickly. The reamer will stop cutting when the proper depth is reached.”
Do you really need to do this operation with military-crimped brass? Yes. German cautions: “any attempt to prime the case without removing the crimp will simply result in a mangled primer that cannot be expected to fire and certainly won’t fire reliably.”
Read Full Article on Riflemans’ Journal Website (more photos and detailed write-up).
*Why does military brass has a primer crimp? German answers: “The crimp is nothing more than an intentional deformation of the case around the primer pocket, the purpose of which is to retain the primer in the case despite high pressure situations in machine guns and other automatic weapons where a loose primer may cause a malfunction. As reloaders, our task is to get rid of the remnants of the crimp in order to allow re-priming the case.”
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November 1st, 2014
German Salazar has written a very thorough guide to measuring nearly all the critical dimensions of cartridge brass. In his Measuring the Case article, on his Rifleman’s Journal website, German reviews the tools and techniques required to measure everything from case overall length to case neck concentricity. Step-by-step, German shows how to measure: Case Length, Case Body length (below neck), Neck Diameter, Headspace, Base Diameter, Neck Thickness, and Case Neck Concentricity.
If you are an “advanced reloader” or want to be, you should read German’s article. Not only does German explain the most common measuring procedures, he highlights some alternative methods you might not have tried yet. The article also links to related discussions of more complex measurement tasts, such as determining case body wall thickness variation.
Even if you’re not a competitive shooter, measuring your brass can provide important safety benefits. As German explains in the conclusion of his article: “There are obviously a lot of measurements that can be taken on the cartridge case and in some cases, more than one way to take them. However, the first two that any new reloader must learn are case length and neck clearance, these two are safety concerns and if overlooked can results in serious damage to the rifle and injury to you.”
German’s article first appeared in RiflemansJournal.com in 2010.
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October 29th, 2014
Chances are that many of you have packed away your ammo and shooting supplies for the winter. Maybe you put your brass in a storage bin that might also contain solvents, old rags, or used bore swabs. Well, if you use any ammonia-based solvents, we suggest you separate the brass and ammo and keep it away from potential ammonia vapors. This is because long-term exposure to ammonia fumes can cause cracks to form in your brass. This can lead to case ruptures and possible injury.
This case-cracking phenomenon has been called Season Cracking, a form of stress-corrosion cracking of brass cartridge cases. Season cracking is characterized by deep brittle cracks which penetrate into affected components. If the cracks reach a critical size, the component can suddenly fracture, sometimes with disastrous results. If the concentration of ammonia is very high, then corrosion is much more severe, and damage over all exposed surfaces occurs. The brass cracking is caused by a reaction between ammonia and copper that forms the cuprammonium ion, Cu(NH3)4, a chemical complex which is water-soluble. The problem of cracking can also occur in copper and copper alloys such as bronze.
Season Cracking was originally observed by the British forces in India a century ago. During the monsoon season, military activity was reduced, and ammunition was stored in stables until the dry weather returned. Many brass cartridges were subsequently found to be cracked, especially where the case was crimped to the bullet. In 1921, in the Journal of the Institute of Metals, the phenomenon was explained by Moor, Beckinsale, and Mallinson. Apparently ammonia from horse urine, combined with the residual stress in the cold-drawn metal of the cartridges, was responsible for the cracking.
Don’t store ammunition (or brass) for long periods in a box or container holding ammoniated solvents:
The Australia Department of Defense (AUSDOD) has also explored the problem of brass cracking caused, at least in part, by exposure to ammonia. A study was done to see whether the amount of cracking (from ammonia exposure) varied according to the duration and temperature of the annealing process used on the brass. CLICK HERE to read AUSDOD Research Report.
Story idea from Boyd Allen. We welcome reader submissions.
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September 30th, 2014
Do you shoot a .308 Winchester (and who doesn’t)? Well here’s a great deal on Lapua .308 Win brass, the best you can buy. Ultra-consistent, Lapua brass stays strong for many reloading cycles, even with stout loads. Lapua is the choice of most F-TR competitors who shoot the .308 Win in competition.
The .308 Win Palma version brass (item BL11071) features small primer pockets. Some people believe the small primer pockets help the cases deliver a lower Extreme Spread (ES) and (maybe) withstand high pressures for more loading cycles. YMMV, but we do like the small-primer-pocket .308 Win Lapua brass and it’s our first choice for target applications.
Both types of Lapua .308 Winchester brass are now available at very attractive prices from Bullets.com: $61.95 for large primer pocket brass, $69.95 for small pocket brass. This cartridge brass is in stock today and ready to ship. CLICK HERE to order.
10/1/2014 Update: Sale Inventories of the Small Primer Pocket .308 Win Palma brass are sold out. You can still buy this brass, but the regular price is $79.95 per 100 cases.
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July 28th, 2014
We know that many of our readers are now tumbling their brass in liquid media rather than dry media such as corn-cob or walnut shells. When done with STM stainless tumbling media (small ss pins), this system really does work, producing brass that is clean “inside and out”. The only down-side to wet tumbling is that sometimes the inside of the caseneck gets so “squeaky clean” that bullets take more effort to seat. This can be remedied with the use of a dry lube inside the necks. When cleaning with stainless tumbling media you’ll need a quality tumbler that is water-tight. The wet-tumbler of choice is the Model B Thumler’s Tumbler. Featuring a bright-red, side-loading drum, the Model B Thumler’s Tumbler is reliable and built to last.
A while back, Bill Gravatt, then President of Sinclair Int’l, had a chance to evaluate the Thumler’s Tumbler and the wet-cleaning process for cartridge brass. Bill came away a believer: “I wanted to share with you my experience using the Thumler’s Tumbler and stainless steel pin media to clean brass.
I used it for the first time just before the National Matches on some .308 Winchester brass. I just added water and some Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner and tumbled them for about 45 to 60 minutes. Wow! I have never had cases so clean both inside and out. The tumbler I used was the sample from our photo studio, and someone had left a 223 Remington case in there that was completely tarnished dark green. I left it in to see what would happen, and it came out just as clean as my .308 cases.
A lot of customers, and a couple of our techs, have told me about the good results they get with this tumbler, but I was still very impressed. At Camp Perry, I talked to a few shooters who had used it, and they all had only good things to say about the Thumler system. Of course, being shooters, they all had their own concoctions (recipes) of various cleaners. All I can say is that the Simple Green worked well for me. If you want to try something different for cleaning brass, you might want to give the Thumler system a tryout. The great thing about the stainless steel media is that it never wears out. Buy it once and never buy media again. We sell a kit of the Tumbler and 5 lbs. of media that will save you a few bucks off buying them separately.” — Bill Gravatt
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July 19th, 2014
The folks at PMA Tool, makers of arbor presses, neck-turning tools, and other case-prep tools, offer some good advice about case trimming on the PMA Tool Blog. Here we reprint a PMA blog post that explains case trimming basics and helps you choose the right case-trimming tool for your needs.
Case Trimming Basics
Trimming the cartridge case to the proper length is a crucial step in case preparation that should not be overlooked or underestimated. The cartridge case or the rifle can be damaged, or even worse you get badly injured. In most instances cases should be trimmed after firing and sizing. Trimming new brass is necessary for a lot of wildcats and can be beneficial in some instances, but by and large, trimming new brass is not necessary for most situations (unless you are neck-turning). Cases should be trimmed after you have sized the case, because the expander ball on the decapping pin can (and will) stretch the neck. Those of us who neck size should get into the habit of trimming after sizing as well. This is a good rule of thumb to go by, and hopefully it will keep you safe during the reloading and shooting process.
There are so many case trimmers out there that work, deciding which one is right for you can be confusing. Even though I have trimmed thousands of cases, using about every method possible, I can’t answer the question of what case trimmer is right for you because of all the variables that may be involved. I can, however shed some light on the subject.
The two most popular designs of trimmers either index (1) off the base or the head of the case, (2) off the shoulder or datum line of the case. There are pros and cons to each and it all depends on what you are willing to live with.
Indexing off the Base (Case Head)
Let’s talk about the first one I have listed, indexing off the base, or the head of the case. The pros to this method are that you can achieve a very accurate over all length and that is after all, what it is all about. The cons to this method are that you can get some variation doing it this way. Let me explain, the base is not always square to the body or can be damaged during firing especially if it is fired through a military style rifle with a very aggressive ejector. These cases should be discarded, but sometimes they can be overlooked. This condition can lead to an over all length that is incorrect. The case head being out of square will be corrected upon firing, however that case will wind up being shorter than the rest of your cases, possibly creating a difference in the neck tension on the bullet. The more you can do to eliminate variables in your reloads the better off you are going to be. This method can also be very slow, and if the user gets careless the result will be a inconsistent over all length.
Indexing off the Shoulder (Datum Line)
The second method I mentioned, trimming off the shoulder or the datum line of the case, has its pros as well. I have found this to be the quickest of the methods and very accurate as well. After the case has been sized through the die the dimensions (particularly the headspace) of the cases are usually very uniform and exact, this allows the case to be trimmed by indexing off the shoulder. This method can be done very quickly, by hand, or by powering either the case, or the trimmer. You also don’t have to worry about the case heads being out of square with the body using this method. Generally the trimming time is cut in half, and this leads to greater focus on the job, without becoming careless. [Editor's Note: The World's Finest Trimmer (WFT) is one power device that indexes off the shoulder datum. It works fast and is very precise. The new WFT 2 Model with interchangeable trim chambers works with multiple cartridge types.]
Story Tip by EdLongrange. User Submissions are welcome.
The choice is yours to make. I hope that this was some help to you, whether you are looking for your first trimmer or looking to replace the trimmer you have. Just remember to always put safety first and accuracy second, and you will start making little bug holes in no time.
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June 1st, 2014
When we first ran this story a while back, it generated great interest among readers. By popular request, we’re reprinting this story, in case you missed it the first time around. — Editor
Precision shooters favor premium brass from Lapua, Norma, or RWS. (Lake City also makes quality brass in military calibers.) Premium brass delivers better accuracy, more consistent velocities, and longer life. Shooters understand the importance of good brass, but many of us have no idea how cartridge cases are actually made. Here’s how it’s done.
The process starts with a brass disk stamped from strips of metal. Then, through a series of stages, the brass is extruded or drawn into a cylindrical shape. In the extrusion process the brass is squeezed through a die under tremendous pressure. This is repeated two or three times typically. In the more traditional “draw” process, the case is progressively stretched longer, in 3 to 5 stages, using a series of high-pressure rams forcing the brass into a form die. While extrusion may be more common today, RWS, which makes some of the most uniform brass in the world, still uses the draw process: “It starts with cup drawing after the bands have been punched out. RWS cases are drawn in three ‘stages’ and after each draw they are annealed, pickled, rinsed and subjected to further quality improvement measures. This achieves specific hardening of the brass cases and increases their resistance to extraordinary stresses.” FYI, Lapua also uses a traditional draw process to manufacture most of its cartridge brass (although Lapua employs some proprietary steps that are different from RWS’s methods).
Deep-Draw Ram Illustration from Demsey Mfg.
After the cases are extruded or drawn to max length, the cases are trimmed and the neck/shoulder are formed. Then the extractor groove (on rimless cases) is formed or machined, and the primer pocket is created in the base. One way to form the primer pocket is to use a hardened steel plug called a “bunter”. In the photos below you see the stages for forming a 20mm cannon case (courtesy OldAmmo.com), along with bunters used for Lake City rifle brass. This illustrates the draw process (as opposed to extrusion). The process of draw-forming rifle brass is that same as for this 20mm shell, just on a smaller scale.
River Valley Ordnance explains: “When a case is being made, it is drawn to its final draw length, with the diameter being slightly smaller than needed. At this point in its life, the head of the draw is slightly rounded, and there are no provisions for a primer. So the final drawn cases are trimmed to length, then run into the head bunter. A punch, ground to the intended contours for the inside of the case, pushes the draw into a cylindrical die and holds it in place while another punch rams into the case from the other end, mashing the bottom flat. That secondary ram holds the headstamp bunter punch.
The headstamp bunter punch has a protrusion on the end to make the primer pocket, and has raised lettering around the face to form the headstamp writing. This is, of course, all a mirror image of the finished case head. Small cases, such as 5.56×45, can be headed with a single strike. Larger cases, like 7.62×51 and 50 BMG, need to be struck once to form a dent for the primer pocket, then a second strike to finish the pocket, flatten the head, and imprint the writing. This second strike works the brass to harden it so it will support the pressure of firing.”
Thanks to Guy Hildebrand, of the Cartridge Collectors’ Exchange, OldAmmo.com, for providing this 20mm Draw Set photo. Bunter photo from River Valley Ordnance.
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March 22nd, 2014
Here’s an article from a couple seasons back. For safety reasons, we are republishing the story. Recently, one of our contributing writers experienced a similar problem at the range. Here, German Salazar looks at the causes for case-head separation, and he recommends a procedure for inspecting your cases.
On his Riflemans’ Journal blog, German Salazar wrote an excellent article about cartridge Case-Head Separation. We strongly recommend that you read this article. German examines the causes of this serious problem and he explains the ways you can inspect your brass to minimize the risk of a case-head separation. As cases get fired multiple times and then resized during reloading, the cases can stretch. Typically, there is a point in the lower section of the case where the case-walls thin out. This is your “danger zone” and you need to watch for tell-tale signs of weakening.
The photo below shows a case sectioned so that you can see where the case wall becomes thinner near the web. German scribed a little arrow into the soot inside the case pointing to the thinned area. This case hadn’t split yet, but it most likely would do so after one or two more firings.
One great tip offered by German Salazar involves using a bent paper clip to detect potential case wall problems. Slide the paper clip inside your case to check for thin spots. German explains: “This simple little tool (bent paper clip) will let you check the inside of cases before you reload them. The thin spot will be immediately apparent as you run the clip up the inside of the case. If you’re seeing a shiny line on the outside and the clip is really hitting a thin spot inside, it’s time to retire the case. If you do this every time you reload, on at least 15% of your cases, you’ll develop a good feel for what the thin spot feels like and how it gets worse as the case is reloaded more times. And if you’re loading the night before a match and feel pressured for time — don’t skip this step!”
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