October 10th, 2017

Slick Tricks: Techniques and Tools for Big-Batch Case Lubrication

accurateshooter USAMU Handloading hump day case lube lubrication spray can cartridge brass reloading marksmanship

Each Wednesday, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit publishes a reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. A while back, the USAMU’s reloading gurus looked at the subject of case lubrication. Tasked with producing thousands of rounds of ammo for team members, the USAMU’s reloading staff has developed very efficient procedures for lubricating large quantities of cases. This article reveals the USAMU’s clever “big-batch” lube methods. For other helpful hand-loading tips, visit the USAMU Facebook page on upcoming Wednesdays.

Rapid, High-Volume Case Lubrication

Today’s topic covers methods for quickly applying spray lube to cartridge cases prior to sizing. A typical order for this shop may be 25,000 rounds, so [speeding up] the lubrication process can be a real time-saver. While your ammunition lots probably aren’t this large, the efficient methods discussed here may help save a considerable amount of time over your handloading career. Our case lubrication rates range from 1500-1600 cases per hour, to 2400-2500 cases per hour, depending on caliber.

This shop uses virgin brass, whereas most home handloaders use fired brass, which necessitates some small changes at times. These will be discussed as they arise. Begin with fired brass that has been tumbled clean.

Ensure as much tumbling media as possible is removed from the brass, as when it gets into a size die, it can dent cases significantly. This is a good time to round out dents in the case mouths using a tapered tool to prevent damage from the decapping stem.

First, dump the clean cases into a large box or reloading bin. Shake the bin back and forth so that many cases are oriented with the mouths up. Next, pick up as many cases as is convenient with the mouths “up”, from natural clusters of correctly-oriented cases. With 7.62mm-size cases, this is usually 3-4, and with 5.56mm cases, this can be up to 8-10. Place the cases into the rack slots, mouth-up. Doing this in groups rather than singly saves considerable time. Once these clusters have been depleted, it will be time to re-shake the bin to orient more cases “up.”.

This photo shows a case lubrication rack made by a USAMU staffer.
accurateshooter USAMU Handloading hump day case lube lubrication spray can cartridge brass reloading marksmanship

Naturally, adjust the spacing to best fit the calibers you reload. We have found this size … convenient for handling through the various phases of case lubrication/transfer to progressive case feeders for processing. Note that the 1/2-inch angle does not cover much of the critical case area at the base, just forward of the extractor groove, where most re-sizing force will be exerted. As the USAMU uses virgin brass, less lubrication is required for our brass than would be needed for Full Length (FL) sizing of previously-fired brass.

NOTE: The amount applied using our rack is easily enough for our purpose. If using fired brass, be sure to adequately lube this base area to avoid having cases stick in the full-length sizing die.

Using a spray lube, coat the cases adequately, but not excessively, from all sides. Be sure to get some lube into the case mouths/necks, in order to reduce expander ball drag and case stretching/headspace changes. The spray lube this shop uses does not harm primers or powder, and does not require tumbling to remove after lubing.*

accurateshooter USAMU Handloading hump day case lube lubrication spray can cartridge brass reloading marksmanship

Take a close look at the photo above. The USAMU shop uses a common kitchen turntable, which allows the rack to be rotated easily. We place this in a custom-made box which prevents over-spray on to floors and walls.

Angled Box Method for Smaller Cases to be Neck-Sized
A refinement of the above method which especially speeds processing of 5.56x45mm cases is as follows. A small cardboard box which holds about 100 cases is fitted with an angled “floor” secured by tape. With the smaller 5.56mm cases, usually about 8-10 cases per handful can be picked up, already correctly-oriented, and placed into the box together. This prevents having to place them into the rack slots, saving time.

accurateshooter USAMU Handloading hump day case lube lubrication spray can cartridge brass reloading marksmanship

HOWEVER, note that this does not allow nearly as much lube access to the case bodies as does the rack. For our purposes — neck-sizing and setting neck tension on new brass, this works well. If using this procedure with fired brass, take steps to ensure adequate lube to prevent stuck cases.

As always, we hope this will help our fellow handloaders. Good luck, and good shooting!


*A two-part test performed here involved spraying primed cases heavily, while getting more lube into the case mouth/body than even a careless handloader would likely apply. The second part of the test involved literally spraying considerable quantities of the lube directly into the cases, drenching the primers. After a several-day wait to allow the lube to penetrate the primers, they were then fired in a test barrel. All fired normally; no unusual reports were noted. This bolstered confidence that normal amounts of the lube would not adversely affect our ammunition, and we have been pleased with the results over several years.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading, Tech Tip 3 Comments »
June 14th, 2017

Make Your Own Lanolin-Based Case Lube

DIY yourself lanolin case lube lubricant One Shot Ultimate Reloader Gavin Gear 6.5 Guys

In the YouTube video embedded below, our friend Gavin Gear of UltimateReloader.com shows who to make your own case lube using simple, inexpensive ingredients. As recommended by the 6.5 Guys, this Liquid Lanolin + Isopropyl Alchohol mix works well and is very cost-effective. You can make a pint of this home-brew Lanolin case lube for a fraction of the price of commercial aerosol spray lubes.

Complete Case Lube Instructions on UltimateReloader.com »

Gavin tells us: “Per the 65guys instructions, I ordered the same components and spray bottles, and these worked out great”:

1. Swan Isopropyl Alcohol, 99%, Pint, 16 Ounce (2-pack)
2. Home Health Liquid Lanolin, 4 Ounce
3. Chemical Guys ACC_121.16HD-3PK Chem. Resistant Heavy Duty Bottle/Sprayer (16 oz.)

Gavin describes the exact mixing process on his Ultimate Reloader website. Gavin says this lube mix is a good complement to the Hornady One-Shot (pistol) and Dillon DCL (rifle) lubes he has used for pistol and rifle reloading sessions. CLICK HERE to read more.

Permalink - Videos, Gear Review, Reloading 4 Comments »
October 27th, 2016

What Is Your Favorite Item of Reloading Equipment?

Sierra Bullets Reloading Equipment Bulletsmiths RCBS rock Chucker single stage press
This article originally appeared in the Sierra Bullets Blog.

We asked a few Sierra Bullets bulletsmiths “What is your favorite ‘don’t know how you ever lived without it’ piece of reloading equipment?” Along with the not-so-surprising “reloading press” responses, there are some interesting answers, including a reloading room, an annealing machine, a comparator, and a home-made tool for detecting incipient case head separation. Check out all the answers below. We would love to hear from you too, please share your response in the comments below.

What Is Your Favorite Piece of Reloading Equipment?

Ballistic Technician Carroll Pilant answered: “Dillon 550 and 650 presses.”

Ballistic Technician Rich Machholz answered: “My universal decapping die is as handy as a pocket on a shirt.”

Ballistic Technician Philip Mahin answered: “A comparator gauge to measure from the base of a case to the ogive of the bullet. This bypasses the tip of the bullet, so I can repeat the same seating depth the next time I visit a specific combination.”

Ballistic Technician Duane Siercks answered: “I don’t know that you would actually call this equipment, but the item that comes to mind would be my reloading room. I had always had to squeeze everything into a corner or even an unheated shed. After we bought our current house, I built a garage and placed it so that I had a window looking down a 250-yard range. I built a dedicated room with heat and A/C. It contains my reloading bench and a shooting bench. The shooting bench lets me slide open the window and shoot down the range. It is very handy to not have to load everything up to go to the range. It also makes load development a lot simpler and efficient. I don’t know how I ever got along without it.”

Ballistic Technician Paul Box answered: “The Lee hand priming tool.”

Former Ballistic Technician Robert Treece answered “My homemade dental pick. I use it to check incipient case-head separations. We all see the ‘bright ring’ down close to the case head, that’s natural, but after several firings could be starting to split apart. You could start by just straightening out a paper clip; flattening one end; sharpening and turning it 90 degrees, then bend if about 1/8″ long will even fit all the way down into .204″ cases. On the other end, bend about 3/4″ to 90 degrees also, in the same direction as the pick. That will give you a handle and also ‘points’” in the direction of the pick as you scrape along the side wall from down inside at the bottom upward along the side wall. If the pick hooks into a crevice — DON’T TRY TO SIZE THE CASE. It will pull apart in your die.”

Chief Ballistician Tommy Todd answered: “A brass annealing machine.”

Production Toolsetter Brad Vansell answered: “Redding Ultramag single-stage reloading press for my rifle and my Dillon 650 for my pistol loading.”

Process Engineer David Palm answered: “Homemade case lube.”

RCBS rock Chucker single stage pressPlant Engineer Darren Leskiw answered: “Beyond the normal equipment, I’d say my electronic scale. Using the beam balance for the past 9 years was ok, but nowhere as easy as using an electronic scale.”

There were many votes for the classic RCBS Rock Chucker single-stage press:

Ballistician Gary Prisendorf answered “RCBS Rockchucker Press, it’s built like a tank, and it will last me a lifetime.”

Production Manager Chris Hatfield answered: “RCBS single stage reloading press.”

Maintenance & Machine Shop Lead Craig Westermier answered: “RCBS Rock Chucker.”

Production Resource Manager Dan Mahnken answered “RCBS Rock Chucker! Buy one and it lasts a lifetime.”

Permalink Reloading 6 Comments »
March 14th, 2016

Try Ballistol Lube for Case Sizing, STP for Neck Turning

If you’re using a body die or a full-length sizing die, try using Ballistol (in the aerosol can) as a lube. It works GREAT without the tacky or gooey residue left by most case lubes. It will also clean off carbon residues on the neck as you lube the case. Just spray a little on a cotton patch (or your fingertips) and wipe each case before you run it up into the die. If you are using a steel neck bushing, be sure to wipe the neck as well. You can usually do a half-dozen BR-sized cases before you need to re-apply Ballistol on the patch. Ballistol is non-toxic, bio-degradeable, and will not harm your skin. It is very slippery, but can easily be removed with a rag or paper towel. Try it–you may retire your One-Shot. Ballistol can also be used to protect wood stocks.

Note, for heavy case-forming or necking up case necks, we still recommend a thicker lubricant, such as Imperial Die Wax. But for normal case sizing, after your neck has been expanded, Ballistol will do the job, and you won’t need to tumble the brass afterwards. All you need is a very thin layer of Ballistol, and this easily wipes off with a paper towel.

For Neck-Turning, Try STP Blend or Assembly Lube
For lubing the neck-turning tool mandrel while turning case necks, many folks use a blend of STP® Oil Treatment and Mobil 1 lube. Chuckw2 reports: “Try STP and Mobile 1 Synthetic oil in a 50/50 mixture. Very slick, you will need to tumble your cases after turning.” STP is a very thick lubricant, that flows and clings almost like honey. Jason reports the STP blend comes off easily in an ultra-sound bath, using a bit of detergent. STP is also now available in a convenient 7-ounce tube, so you don’t have to buy a large bottle.

Assembly LubeAnother even cheaper option is assembly lubricant. For turning his case necks, RStreich uses assembly lube from an auto parts store. He notes: “The brand I have is reddish in color and kind of sticky like honey. It’s far better than the Imperial die wax I was using before.” There are a variety of types, both with and without moly additive, and you can select the viscosity you prefer if you sample a few brands. Be sure to clean out any lube residue from the inside of your necks when you have completed your neck-turning.

Permalink Reloading, Tech Tip 5 Comments »
January 7th, 2016

Case Lube Readers Poll — Spray Lubes Are Number One

Mobil 1 reloading case lube

What kind of case lubricant do you use. If you’re like most hand-loaders, you prefer some kind of thin, spray-on lube. Our friend Gavin Gear of UltimateReloader.com surveyed his readers, with the results displayed in the chart below. Thin spray-type lubes took the top spot, followed by waxy-type lubes.* CLICK HERE to Vote in the Case Lube Poll.

case lube survey poll ultimatereloader.com Gavin Gear Hornady one-shot

Gavin explains: “Over the years, I’ve talked quite a bit about different case lube products and techniques for both rifle and pistol reloading. Depending on your goals, the cartridge being reloaded, and what you have on-hand, your options will typically be honed down to a few ‘best options’. But the more you talk with seasoned reloaders, the more options you’ll discover.”

Mobil 1 reloading case lubeSynthetic Motor Oil for Special Tasks
One new lubrication option Gavin has tried is synthetic motor oil “I’ve started using another product for rifle case lube: synthetic motor oil. In particular, I’ve been using this oil to ‘prime’ rifle sizing dies when starting a loading session. This priming combined with fresh spray lube (Dillon DCL recently) has been a good combination for .223/5.56 and .308/7.62x51mm loading sessions.

I just pour a bit of synthetic motor oil into the quart jug cap, dip my finger into the cap, and apply about one drop to the outside of the case with my fingers. I then dip the end of a Q-Tip into the oil cap (just a drop applied), and roll the end of the Q-Tip between my fingers. The Q-Tip is then ‘rolled’ inside the case mouth to provide lube for the expander ball. I’m wondering how many thousands of applications I could get out of one quart of motor oil!

READ more case lubrication tips at UltimateReloader.com


*This Editor’s own perference follow this ranking. For regular case-sizing with benchrest cases (and close-fitting dies), I use Ballistol aerosol (active ingredient is mineral oil). Not chalky or gummy, Ballistol is very, very slippery. A thin sheen lubricates extremely well yet wipes off easily. For heavy case-forming duties I use Imperial Die Wax.

Clean and Lube
One advantage of Ballistol is that, wiped on a patch, it will remove carbon residue from case necks. That way you can clean and lube your case in one step before running your case into the Full-length sizing dies. Just spray a little on a cotton patch. After cleaning the case-neck flip the patch over and lube the case body.

Permalink Reloading 5 Comments »
June 4th, 2014

Sinclair Int’l Guide to Cartridge Case Lubrication

Sinclair International has a good article on Case Lubrication which shows the various products and application methods available. Part of Sinclair’s Step-By-Step Reloading series, the article shows how to apply Spray Lube, Die Wax, or conventional lube from a Pad. The story also explains how to use dry lube to slick up the inside of your case necks.

Spray Lubes
High-volume reloaders often turn to spray-on lubricants such as the RCBS Case Slick (#749-001-341) or the Hornady One Shot (#749-001-065) to quickly lubricate large numbers of cases at once. An indispensable piece of gear that helps make spray lubing easy is a lube rack (#749-011-550) – a polymer block that holds cases upright and arranged to maximize their exposure to the spray.

Hornady spray cartridge case Lube

Editor’s Note: Ballistol Aerosol is other good spray product for regular full-length sizing (not heavy case forming). It goes on clear (no chalky residue), it is ultra-slippery, and it will remove the carbon from your case necks as you apply Ballistol with a patch. This is my primary spray lube — but many folks hate the distinctive Ballistol smell. Try before you buy.

Sizing Die Wax
Over the years, many benchrest shooters have come to trust Imperial Sizing Die Wax (#749-001-052) for their case lube needs. It offers high lubricity and easily wipes off with a paper towel. In fact, its lubricity makes it a popular choice for case forming, for those wildcat folks who need to form their own unique or obsolete cartridges. Unlike lube pads or spray lubes, sizing wax is applied more naturally. You just put a little on your fingers and transfer it to the cases by handling them. As simple and easy as Imperial Sizing Die Wax is to use, it’s probably best for low-volume applications.

Cartridge Case lubrication imperisal Die wax case sizing reloading

Dry Lubricant
Redding’s Imperial Application Media (#749-001-166) is a dry neck lube used to lube the inside of the neck, whether you’re full-length sizing or neck-sizing only. It consists of ceramic spheres coated with a fine graphite-based powder. You simply dip the neck into the container for a second to pick up the right amount of lube. This lube enables the expander ball to work smoothly throughout the case neck –instead of “grabbing” or “chattering” — to minimize case neck stretching.

Cartridge Case lubrication imperisal Die wax case sizing reloading

Editor’s Note: Dry Lube is also very useful if you ultrasonically clean your cases. After the ultrasound process, the inside of the case neck can be so “squeaky clean” that bullets don’t seat smoothly. A quick application of dry lube will help bullets slide into the neck easier and the neck “grip” on the bullets should be more consistent from round-to-round. Consistent neck tension is key to accuracy and uniform velocities.

Story Tip from EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
Permalink Reloading 5 Comments »
June 2nd, 2013

ES Too High? Here’s a Factor You May Not Have Considered…

case lube cleaning bullet handsHow would you like to lower your Extreme Spread (ES) and Standard Deviation (SD) significantly by a simple procedure that takes seconds and costs almost nothing?

Here’s all you need to do. After lubing your cases for full-length sizing, be sure to clean your hands (removing ALL residual lube) before you handle your bullets. As an extra measure to avoid lube contamination, slip on thin Latex gloves before you handle and seat your bullets. Will this make a difference? Let me tell you a story.

Keep Those Greasy Fingers Off Your Bullets
I recently loaded a couple dozen cases for a 6mm Dasher. We were in a hurry to leave for the range so I was loading faster than normal. When we started shooting the ammo I noticed that the 5-shot ES was bad — really bad — 48 fps. I was shocked because this was a known good load that had previously showed ES in the teens. This one had me stumped. What could have resulted in this high ES? What did I do different while reloading this time?

Then a lightbulb went off. I realized I had been seating bullets (round by round) immediately after lubing and sizing each case. My fingers still had some greasy lube on them which obviously got on some of the bullets, “polluting” them. My normal reloading procedure is to lube and size all cases, clean them off, then place the brass in a loading tray. Then I would clean my hands BEFORE adding powder and seating bullets. This time, in my rush, I sized a case, wiped it off, then immediately added powder and projectile. I did not take the time to clean off my fingers carefully before handling the bullets.

Big Drop in ES When I Avoided Bullet Contamination with Case Lube
The next day I went back to the loading room. I loaded the same brass with the same powder, same primer, same bullet type, same bushing — same everything. But this time, I washed my hands thoroughly with a hand cleaner, dried them with a clean paper towel, and I even put on thin latex gloves before handling the bullets. I loaded 10 rounds and fired them over the chronograph again in the same rifle. The 5-shot ES was 14 fps and the 10-shot ES was 22 fps (That’s normal for this load/rifle). Compare that to a 5-shot ES of 48 the day before. I had reduced my 5-shot ES by 70%! We were back in business. (By the way, the groups were also very small).

Greasy Bullets 5-Shot Extreme Spread = 48 FPS
Clean Bullets 5-Shot Extreme Spread = 14 FPS

Lesson Learned — Keep Case Lube Off Your Bullets
Your results may vary of course, but now I always make sure to remove ALL residual lube from my fingers before handling bullets or doing anything that can get unwanted lube inside the necks.

What about gloves? I don’t think the Latex gloves are essential (if your hands are dry and clean), but they just cost a few pennies when bought in bulk. You can buy a box of 100 latex gloves for under $7.00 on Amazon.com. I suggest the non-powdered type.

Use Your Common Sense
Before the critics launch a tirade, let me be the first to acknowledge that many champions have loaded perfectly good ammo (and shot great groups) without paying much attention to greasy fingers. We’ve all seen short-range benchresters loading ammo between relays. They work fast and may not take the time to clean all lube off their fingers before seating bullets. And we’ve seen some of those guys go out and shoot itty-bitty groups in the ones and zeros. So I am NOT claiming that careful “reloading bench hygiene” is essential to shooting small!

All I am saying is that I observed and recorded a significant drop in my ES when I made sure to avoid contaminating bullet jackets with case lube. This is a simple precaution that is easy to follow when loading at home. It may help you cut your ES/SD. It may help avoid that one “mystery flyer” that ruins a group. Cleaning your hands before seating bullets may seem obsessive. But the smart reloader knows that paying attention to the small details, in all respects, is the key to making ultra-accurate ammo that exhibits low ES/SD on the chronograph.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading 3 Comments »
January 22nd, 2012

SHOT Show: New Products from Redding Reloading Equipment

Video Report by Robert Whitley
Redding Reloading Equipment unveiled some new products at the 2012 SHOT Show. In this video, Dave Dibble, staff engineer for Redding, showcases some of Redding’s new items. These include the new small-caliber drop tube adapter, the Micrometer Seating Stem Retrofit kit, and Redding’s New Imperial BioGreen Case Lubricant (for pad application).

17-20 Caliber Drop Tube Adapter
This is a Lexan replacement fitting that goes on the bottom of a Redding powder measure drop tube to provide a better fit on small cases. The adapter is a simple friction fit and works with all Redding powder measures and the Redding powder funnel. The adapter simply slides onto the existing drop tube. The adapter should fit any Redding drop tube of 1960s vintage or newer.

Micrometer Seating Stem Retrofit Kit
Redding offers a unit that upgrades existing Redding standard seating dies to a micrometer-top seating die, with hash marks corresponding to .001″ (one-thousandth) movements in bullet seating depth. Note, before you order, check the part number on top of your existing standard seating die, and find the corresponding upgrade kit.

Imperial Bio-Green Case Lube
This new, non-petroleum lube, said to be “as slippery as traditional Imperial Die Wax”, can be used on any pad type-lubricant applicator. Clean-up is easy because the lube is water-soluble and the lube won’t stain your brass. Redding recommends this for folks who use ultrasonic cleaners as there is no petroleum to contaminate the ultra-sonic cleaning solution. Redding says reloaders should be able to “clean a lot more cases before changing the [ultrasonic] fluid.”

Permalink - Videos, New Product, Reloading 5 Comments »
January 17th, 2010

Handy New Case Lube Pad with Cartridge Tray

Case Lube padGrafs.com has a handy new case lube unit from SmartReloader, the Swiss-owned “yellow” brand now competing with RCBS (Green) and Lee (Red). The SR-104 case lube pad/tray is so new you won’t even find it on the parent SmartReloader’s company website.

The SmartReloader Case Lube Unit is very nicely thought out. A closed-cell-foam lube pad is positioned in the middle. On left and right sides are small trays that can hold your lube bottle or cartridge cases. But the real brilliant feature of the design is the dual-purpose yellow pad cover/brass holder. When flipped open, the hinged cover has slots to hold your cases just like a reloading tray. When you’ve finished lubing your cases, fold the yellow lid back and it completely covers and protects the sticky lube pad. That’s really smart. Now you don’t have to worry about your lube pad attracting dirt, tumbler dust, and even unlucky insects that might wander across it.

Case Lube pad

If you still prefer to lube your cases on a rolling pad (there are easier methods in this Editor’s opinion), you should check this product out. The new SmartReloader Case Lube Unit costs just $12.99 at Grafs.com, item VBSR01702.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, New Product, Reloading No Comments »