When neck-turning cases, it’s a good idea to extend the cut slightly below the neck-shoulder junction. This helps keep neck tension more uniform after repeated firings, by preventing a build-up of brass where the neck meets the shoulder. One of our Forum members, Craig from Ireland, a self-declared “neck-turning novice”, was having some problems turning brass for his 20 Tactical cases. He was correctly attempting to continue the cut slightly past the neck-shoulder junction, but he was concerned that brass was being removed too far down the shoulder.
Craig writes: “Everywhere I have read about neck turning, [it says] you need to cut slightly into the neck/shoulder junction to stop doughnutting. I completely understand this but I cant seem to get my neck-turning tool set-up to just touch the neck/shoulder junction. It either just doesn’t touch [the shoulder] or cuts nearly the whole shoulder and that just looks very messy. No matter how I adjust the mandrel to set how far down the neck it cuts, it either doesn’t touch it or it cuts far too much. I think it may relate to the bevel on the cutter in my neck-turning tool…”
Looking at Craig’s pictures, we’d agree that he didn’t need to cut so far down into the shoulder. There is a simple solution for this situation. Craig is using a neck-turning tool with a rather shallow cutter bevel angle. This 20-degree angle is set up as “universal geometry” that will work with any shoulder angle. Unfortunately, as you work the cutter down the neck, a shallow angled-cutter tip such as this will remove brass fairly far down. You only want to extend the cut about 1/32 of an inch past the neck-shoulder junction. This is enough to eliminate brass build-up at the base of the neck that can cause doughnuts to form.
The answer here is simply to use a cutter tip with a wider angle — 30 to 40 degrees. The cutter for the K&M neck-turning tool (above) has a shorter bevel that better matches a 30° shoulder. There is also a 40° tip available. PMA Tool and 21st Century Shooting also offer carbide cutters with a variety of bevel angles to match your case shoulder angle*. WalkerTexasRanger reports: “I went to a 40-degree cutter head just to address this same issue, and I have been much happier with the results. The 40-degree heads are available from Sinclair Int’l for $13 or so.” Forum Member CBonner concurs: “I had the same problem with my 7WSM… The 40-degree cutter was the answer.” Below is Sinclair’s 40° cutter for its NT-1000, NT-1500, and NT-4000 neck-turning tools. Item NT-3140, it sells for $12.95. There is also a 40° cutter for the NT-3000 tool, item NT-3340 ($13.95).
Al Nyhus has another clever solution: “The best way I’ve found to get around this problem is to get an extra shell holder and face it off .020-.025 and then run the cases into the sizing die. This will push the shoulder back .020-.025. Then you neck turn down to the ‘new’ neck/shoulder junction and simply stop there. Fireforming the cases by seating the bullets hard into the lands will blow the shoulder forward and the extra neck length you turned by having the shoulder set back will now be blended perfectly into the shoulder. The results are a case that perfectly fits the chamber and zero donuts.”
Get an inside look at the how ammunition is made with this step-by-step production guide from Hornady. The video begins by showing the stages in production of a lead-core jacketed bullet with exposed tip, such as the Hornady Interlock. Next, at the 1:38″ time-mark, the video shows how cartridge cases are made, starting with small brass cups (photo right). The brass is lengthened in a series of stages involving annealing, drawing, polishing, and the formation of the case head with primer pocket. Finally, at the 2:40″ time mark, the video shows how bullets and powder are seated into cartridge cases on the Hornady assembly line. In the final production stages, the completed ammunition is tested and packaged.
Watch Ammo Production Video
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Hornady plans to start producing .50 BMG ‘Match Grade’ Cartridge Brass. MSRP is $131.99 for twenty (20) cases (Item #8772). Hornady claims the new brass will have very uniform case wall thickness, and very consistent case weight and internal capacity. Hornady has not stated when its .50 BMG brass will start shipping. When the Hornady .50 BMG brass (Item #8772) does hit the market, we expect it will be in high demand. Our friends at the Fifty Caliber Shooters Association (FCSA) tell us that it is “getting harder and harder to get your hands on good .50 Cal brass these days.”
Reloaders Rejoice! There’s a new source for bullets, brass, powder, and primers, as well as loaded ammunition. The all-new Bullets.com website offers all these products, plus reloading tools and dies, barrels, gun stocks, scopes, rings, shooting rests, range bags and much more. Primers, you need primers you say? Yes, Bullets.com currently has some types of CCI, Federal, and Remington primers in stock, including the hard-to-find CCI 450 small rifle magnum primers.
You definitely want to include Bullets.com among the vendors you visit when you need components and gun hardware. The new Bullets.com webstore will carry 8,000+ shooting-related products from over 50 top brands such as Lapua, Norma, Federal, CCI, Berger, Sierra, Berry’s, Bald Eagle, Bushnell, Hodgdon, Alliant, Nightforce, Kowa, Vortex, Winchester, MTM, Magpul and many more! Check out the website at www.bullets.com or call 1-800-235-0272 to get a free 60-page color catalog.
POWDERS IN STOCK — Among the popular powders in stock at Bullets.com today are:
Bullets.com carries projectiles from the leading bullet-makers including Berger, Lapua, Sierra, Speer, and Berrys. Yes Bullets.com has premium bullets in stock right now, including the hard-to-find Berger 6mm 105gr Hybrid, and 7mm 180gr Hybrid. Grab ‘em while you can boys!
Along with reloading components, factory ammo, and reloading dies, you’ll find the hardware you need to build a complete rifle. Bullets.com caries Bartlein barrels (in a wide range of calibers and contours), laminated gun stocks, and a full line of optics, including Nightforce, Kowa, and Vortex rifle-scopes and spotting scopes.
Who Are Those Guys? About Bullets.Com
Bullets.com was launched as a result of the intense passion for shooting by its President, Shiraz Balolia. Shiraz has been shooting pistols, rifles and shotguns for almost 40 years and has been involved in long range rifle shooting at the National and International level for almost 10 years. He served as the Captain of the U.S. F-Class Open Rifle Team for the 2013 World Championship and was a member of the 4-man team that won the 2013 Nat’l 1,000-yard Championship. He has won numerous gold medals in long range shooting and has set several National records.
Bullets.com is a division of Grizzly Industrial that was started by Mr. Balolia in 1983. During those 30 years, Grizzly became a powerhouse in the metalworking and woodworking machinery industry serving over a million regular customers and growing its warehouses with 1.2 million square feet of space in three states (WA, PA, MO).
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In a world where too many companies have down-graded product quality and durability, we’re lucky there are some fanatical Finns who build great stuff for shooters. For serious handloaders, the cartridge brass of choice is made by Lapua in Finland. Lapua brass lasts longer than most other brands of cartridge brass, with industry-leading case-to-case uniformity. How do the Finns manage to make such good brass and loaded ammo? This informative video provides insights into Lapua’s “passion for precision”. This “must watch”, 12-minute video contains a surprising amount of “hard” info on Lapua products, with segments showing Lapua brass and rimfire ammo being produced. Watch carefully and you’ll see most of the processes used for forming and loading brass. Another short segment shows a Lapua technician inspecting a case for run-out.
The video spotlights some of the important American and international records set with Lapua ammo. You’ll see top 300m and Olympic rifle shooters in action, and there are also short comments from many champions, including American Benchrest legend Tony Boyer.
Yes, this video is first and foremost a marketing tool, but that doesn’t lessen that fact that it is fascinating to watch. Lapua’s video also does a great job making our sport seem important and exciting — NRA take note! We suspect many of you will want to save the video to your computer for future viewing. That’s easy to do. Just click on the link below. (Note: After downloading, we suggest that PC users play it back through Windows Media Player. You can then drag the Media Player corners to expand the video viewing size.)
If you’ve read our feature story on Ultrasonic Cleaning by Jason Baney, you’ve seen the remarkable results that can be achieved with this method. Ultrasonic cleaning has many advantages over traditional tumbling methods of case cleaning. There is no dust or media residue to remove from the brass, and when done right, the cases come out clean and shiney, inside and out, even the primer pockets.
In its Benchtalk Archives, Brownell’s has an excellent article discussing Ultrasonic Case Cleaning. Brownell’s staff compares results, with measured dwell times from 5 to 75 minutes, using both Mpro-7 and HCS 200 cleaning solutions. Tests are performed with once-fired and 5X-fired Tactical 20 (Tac20) cases, as well as once-fired .260 Rem Cases. The article also compares the results from ultrasonic cleaning vs. tumbling in walnut media. Below are Brownell’s results for Tac20 cases with the HCS 200 (non-acidic solution). Go to Brownell’s article for MPro7 results and Rem 260 results.
HCS 200 Cleaning Solution Test
Procedure — Solution was de-gassed for 15 minutes, then 63 Tac20 cases were placed in a single layer, in stainless steel mesh basket. The temperature of the starting solution was 102° F. When the cases were removed the temperature was 110° F.
Once-Fired Tactical Twenty Cases (HCS 200) — Observations 5 minutes: The exterior of the cases are not significantly brighter/cleaner. The primer pockets and case interiors are still dirty. 10 minutes: Exterior of the cases are brighter. 70% of the cases show some degree of cleaning of the primer pockets. Little difference seen inside the case, but case mouths are cleaner. 15 minutes: Case brightness is about the same. Still only 70% of the primer pockets are clean, but a larger portion of each is cleaner. A Q-tip swabbed inside the cases shows that carbon/powder residues are loosening up. 20 minutes: Case exteriors are brightening up. 80-85% of the primer pockets are about 90% clean. The insides of the cases and case mouths are cleaner. 25 minutes: Cases are brighter/cleaner than even new brass. 80-85% of the cases have almost completely clean primer pockets. The inside of the cases are 80-90% clean. 30 minutes: The insides of the cases and case mouths appear to be completely clean. 87% of the primer pockets are virtually 100% clean. 13% of the cases had stubborn primer pocket residue that could not be completely removed. 60 minutes: Eight cases (13%) were placed in the tank for another 30 minutes to try to remove the remaining residue in their primer pockets. Six out of the eight cases were completely clean.
Five-Times Fired Tac20 Cases — Observations 30 minutes: Based on the above observations, I didn’t begin to observe these 5-time fired cases until after 30 minutes: The exterior cases are bright/clean. Brighter than new cases. The primer pockets on 75% of the cases are 75% clean. The remaining cases had primer pockets that were only 25% clean. The inside of the cases appear to be clean. 65 minutes: 25% of the primer pockets were 95% clean, 25% of the primer pockets were 90% clean, 25% of the primer pockets were 85% clean; and 25% were 80% clean. 75 minutes: 75% of the primer pockets were 90% clean.
How Does Ultrasonic Cleaning Work?
The Brownell’s article explains: “Ultrasonic cleaning uses high-frequency sound waves (generally between 20-80 kHz) to remove a variety of contaminants from objects immersed in a liquid. The result of these high-frequency sound waves is a process called cavitation. These high frequency bursts of ultrasonic energy produce a three-dimensional wave of alternating positive and negative pressure areas as the sound wave passes through the solution. During negative pressure, microscopic cavitation bubbles form and will continue to grown until they reach resonant size. As the positive sound wave passes, the pressure rises rapidly and implodes these tiny bubbles. Before these minuscule bubbles implode they store a tremendous amount of energy. These bubbles can be as hot as 10,000 degrees and have as much as 50,000 lbs per square inch of pressure. This sounds alarming, but you have to remember that these bubbles are microscopic in nature and pose no harm to anything, unless you are a carbon /powder residue deposit on a cartridge case!
When this cavitation bubble implodes near your brass case, it transforms the bubble into a jet about 1/10th of its size. This jet of energy can travel as fast as 400 km/hour. At 43 kHz, as is the frequency for our L & R HCS 200 ultrasonic cleaner, this is happening 43,000 times per second. This micro-burst of extreme energy is responsible for removing contaminants from the surface of your cartridge brass. Ultrasonic cleaning can reach into crevices and inaccessible areas and remove surface debris that can’t be cleaned by any other process.”
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.]
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.
Story Tip by EdLongrange. User Submissions are welcome.
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Using ultrasound in a liquid solution, you can clean your cartridge brass inside and out. Ultrasonic cleaning is nothing new — we described this process years ago. But with the increased cost of brass, more and more shooters are turning to this effective process to get their cases clean.
Now RCBS offers an affordable Ultrasonic Cleaning Machine with some great features. The new RCBS machine boasts a 3-liter capacty, user-friendly keypad, and a built-in 100-watt heater with four settings. The unit also includes a handy drain valve and drain tube.
Ultrasonic cleaning works fast, without the long processing time (and dust) of conventional tumbling. Cleaning cases with ultrasonic machines has become very popular, as the ultrasonic process reliably removes caked-on carbon and grime from brass cases inside and out, even in the primer pocket. We do recommend that, after ultrasonic cleaning, you consider using a dry neck lube to restore lubricity to your necks for the first and second firings.
The new RCBS ultrasonic cleaner features a large 3-liter capacity, 60 watt transducer, and 100 watt ceramic heater. ‘Street Price’ for the RCBS ultrasonic machine is under $150.00, and this unit qualifies for RCBS Rebates ($10 off $50 purchase or $50 off $300.00 purchase). RCBS also sells 32 oz. bottles of cleaning concentrate that will make up to 10 gallons of Ultrasonic Solution.
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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.”
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’ methods).
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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by German Salazar, RiflemansJournal.com
Neck turning isn’t a once-in-a-while operation at my reloading bench. I shoot a lot, go through a fair amount of brass and neck-turn every piece of brass I use. I like the K&M neck turner, it’s well designed, well made, affordable if you like to have more than one caliber permanently set up and so that’s what I use. The only flaw in the K&M is that the tool itself is small enough that holding it for long and frequent session of neck turning is literally a pain. If you happen to have arthritis, it’s even more so.
Pendergraft Holder for K&M Neck-Turner
Joel Pendergraft makes a great tool holder for the K&M that does away with the pain as it gives a much larger and more comfortable gripping surface. The tool holder is made from aluminum, nicely machined and knurled for a good grip. I thought it was well worth the price of $48.00 delivered in the USA (Price may have gone up since this story was written). Switching the tool holder from one K&M turner to another is a matter of loosening the set screw on the side, slipping out one turner, inserting the other and re-tightening. The Pendergraft tool-holder is simple, well-made, fairly priced and a real joy to use. Who could ask for more?
If you have questions or want to order the K&M tool holder, contact Joel Pendergraft via email: firstname.lastname@example.org .
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He who dies with the most toys wins — right? Well Sinclair has another interesting gadget you can add to your reloading bench. The Sinclair Case Neck Sorting Tool lets you quickly sort brass by neck-wall thickness. For those who shoot “no-turn” brass, this can improve neck-tension consistency. Large variances in neck-wall thickness can cause inconsistent neck “grip” on the bullet. Generally, we’ve found that more consistent neck tension will lower ES and (usually) improve accuracy. We know some guys who shoot no-turn 6mmBR brass in competition with considerable success — but their secret is pre-sorting their brass by neck-wall thickness. Cases that are out-of-spec are set aside for sighters (or are later skim-turned).
Watch Case Neck Sorting Tool Operation in Video
How the Case Neck Sorting Tool Works
Here’s how the Sinclair tool works. Cases are rotated under an indicator tip while they are supported on a case-neck pilot and a support pin through the flash hole. The unit has a nice, wide base and low profile so it is stable in use. The tool works for .22 through .45 caliber cases and can be used on .17- and .20-caliber cases with the optional carbide alignment rod. The MIC-4 pin fits both .060 (PPC size) and .080 (standard size) flash holes. Sinclair’s Case Neck Sorting Tool can be ordered with or without a dial indicator. The basic unit without dial indicator (item 749-006-612WS) is currently ON SALE for $49.95, marked down from $64.95 — a 23% savings! You can also buy the tool complete with dial indicator (item 749-007-129WS) for $86.99. IMPORTANT: This tool requires caliber-specific Sinclair Case Neck Pilots which must be ordered separately.
Editor’s Comment: The purpose of this Sinclair tool is rapid, high-quantity sorting of cartridge brass to ascertain significant case-neck-wall thickness variations. Consider this a rapid culling/sorting tool. If you are turning your necks, you will still need a quality ball micrometer tool to measure neck-wall thickness (to .0005) before and after neck-turning operations.
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