April 14th, 2018

Reloading Tip: Use Expander Mandrels with New Brass

Expander Mandrel reloading case neck tension cartridge brass

Before you load that nice new cartridge brass for the first time, run an expander mandrel down the case necks. This will iron out dents and provide more uniform neck tension. Chose a mandrel diameter that provides appropriate neck tension.

Lapua brass is so good that you’ll be tempted to just load and shoot, if you have a “no-turn” chamber. However, some minimal case prep will ensure more uniform neck tension. Keeping your neck tension very uniform allows more consistent bullet seating. That, in turn, usually yields better accuracy, and lower Extreme Spread and Standard Deviation (ES/SD). Lapua brass, particularly 6mmBR, 6.5×47, 6.5 Creedmoor, and .308 Win comes from the factory with tighter-than-optimal necks. Before you seat bullets, at a minimum, you should inside chamfer the case mouths, after running an expander mandrel down the necks. The expander mandrels from both Sinclair Int’l and K&M will both leave the necks with enough neck tension (more than .001″) so you can then seat bullets without another operation. We suggest putting a bit of lube on the mandrel before running it down the necks — but remove any lube that gets inside the necks before seating bullets.

Sinclair Expander Tool Mandrel

Both Sinclair and K&M Tools make a die body specifically to hold expander mandrels. The Sinclair version, is shown above. This $28.99 unit fits caliber-specific expander mandrels ($9.99) which measure approximately .001″ less than bullet diameter for each caliber. This is an updated “Gen II” design that completely captures the mandrel within the die so the mandrel cannot pull out. It also has an O-ring in the die cap that allows the mandrel to self-center within the case neck. Sinclair now offers three sizes of die bodies for expander mandrels: .17 -.338 Caliber (#749-011-715WS); .357 – .50 caliber (#749-008-843WS), and a special .50 Cal die body for large-diameter 50 BMG presses (#749-009-163WS, $39.99). All Generation II dies are machined from stainless steel and the standard diameter 7/8-14 dies include the Sinclair Stainless Steel Split Lock Ring.

Once you run the Sinclair expander mandrel down the necks of Lapua brass, after you account for brass spring-back, you’ll have about .002″ neck tension*. This will make the process of seating bullets go much more smoothly, and you will also iron out any dents in the case mouths. Once the case mouths are all expanded, and uniformly round, then do your inside neck chamfering/deburring. The same expander mandrels can be used to “neck-up” smaller diameter brass, or prepare brass for neck-turning.

Forum member Mike Crawford adds: “These expanders can also reduce runout from offset seating. Prior to bullet seating, expand the sized necks to force thickness variance outward. With the Sinclair system, the necks will springback fine, and will not be pulled out of center. This leaves plenty of tension, and bullets seated more centered. I do this, even with turned necks, to get improved seating.”

Mandrels vs. Expander Balls on Decapping Rods
If you haven’t acquired an appropriate expander mandrel for your brass, but you DO have a full-length sizing die with an expander ball, this will also function to “iron out” the necks and reduce tension. However, using a die with an expander ball will work the necks more — since you first size them down, then the ball expands them up again. Typically (but not always), run-out is worse when using an expander ball vs. an expander mandrel.


* This .002″ tension is what we have observed with Lapua 6mmBR, 6.5×47, 6.5 Creedmoor, and .308 Win brass. This might vary with much smaller or larger cases, and of course a different brand of brass might yield different results. If you get too little tension with your current mandrel, you can get a smaller-diameter mandrel from 21st Century Shooting. 21st Century even offers low-friction Titanium Nitride-coated mandrels.

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January 17th, 2018

For Smoother Bullet Seating — Try Dry Lube Inside Case Necks

Forster original caseneck case neck brass dry mica lube lubricator system

If you want smoother bullet seating, inside neck lube can help. Forum member Ackleyman II likes to add a little Mica powder inside his case necks before seating bullets. This is easily done with the Forster three-brush neck lube kit. Ackleyman tells us: “Many loads that I have will not shoot well with a dry neck compared to a neck that is cleaned and lubed with this [Forster Dry Lubricator] — the best $15 you have ever spent.”

The Forster Case Neck Lubricator features three brushes attached to a tough, impact-resistant case with holes for bench mounting. The brushes accommodate all calibers from 22 to 35 caliber. The kit includes enough “motor mica” to process 2000 to 3000 cases and has a cover to keep dust and grit from contaminating the mica. By moving the case neck up and down on the correct mica-covered brush, the neck can be cleaned and lubricated at the same time.

Function: Lubricate case necks for easier resizing
Contents: Kit with base, lid, and three nylon brushes
Lubricant: Includes 1/10 oz. of Motor Mica, enough to process 2000-3000 cases

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading 4 Comments »
January 9th, 2018

Inside Chamfer Tools — Sorting Through the Options

Neck case chamfer tools Redding Forster Rocket model 15-p
Shown is the Redding Model 15-P Competition Piloted Inside Chamfering Tool with pilot rod that centers in the case flash hole. Also shown is a Forster 45° Rocket Tool.

There are a wide variety of reloading tools designed to cut a slight chamfer in case necks and deburr the edge of the case mouth. You don’t need to spend a lot of money for an effective tool. A basic “rocket-style” 45° chamfering tool, such as the Forster, actually does a pretty good job taking the sharp edge off case mouths, particularly if you use a little scotch-pad (or steel wool) to smooth the edge of the cut. The Forster chamfer tool, shown below, is a nicely-made product, with sharper cutting blades than you’ll find on most other 45° chamferers. It costs $17.99 at Brownells.com.

forster rocket 45 degree neck chamferer chamfer tool

Redding sells a handy piloted chamfering tool with a 15° inside cutting angle and removable accessory handle. This Redding Model 15-P chamferer works really well, so long as you have consistent case OALs. The pilot rod (which indexes in the flash hole) is adjustable for different cartridge types (from very short to very long). This ensures the concentricity of the inside neck chamfer to the case mouth. This quality tool works with cases from .22 to .45 Caliber.

Neck case chamfer tools Redding Forster Rocket model 15-p

Sinclair International offers a 28° carbide chamferer with many handy features (and sharp blades). The $29.99 Sinclair Carbide VLD Case Mouth Chamfering Tool will chamfer cases from .14 through .45 caliber. This tool features a removable 28° carbide cutter mounted in the green plastic Sinclair handle. NOTE: A hex-shaft cutter head power adapter can be purchased separately for $14.99 (Sinclair item 749-002-488WS). This can be chucked in a power screwdriver or used with the Sinclair Case Prep Power Center when doing large volumes of cases.

Neck inside chamfer chamferer case neck tool

Many folks feel they can get smoother bullet seating by using a tool that cuts at a steeper angle. We like the 22° cutter sold by Lyman. It has a comfortable handle, and costs just $10.75 at MidsouthShooterssupply.com. The Lyman tool is an excellent value, though we’ve seen examples that needed sharpening even when new. Blade-sharpening is easily done, however.

K&M makes a depth-adjustable, inside-neck chamferer (“Controlled Depth Tapered Reaper”) with ultra-sharp cutting flutes. The latest version, which costs $47.00 at KMShooting.com, features a central pin that indexes via the flash hole to keep the cutter centered. In addition, the tool has a newly-designed handle, improved depth-stop fingers, plus a new set-screw adjustment for precise cutter depth control. We caution, even with all the depth-control features, if you are not careful, it is easy to over-cut, slicing away too much brass and basically ruining your neck. We think that most reloaders will get better results using a more conventional chamfer tool, such as the Forster or Redding 15-P.

K & M K&M neck chamferer reamer controlled depth

One last thing to note — tools like the K&M and the Sinclair chamferer are often described as VLD chamferers. That is really a misnomer, as bullets with long boat-tails actually seat easily with very minimal chamfering. In reality, these high-angle chamferers may be most valuable when preparing brass for flat-base bullets and bullets with pressure rings. Using a 22° or 28° chamferer can reduce the risk of cutting a jacket when using VLD bullets though — so long as you make a smooth cut.

Permalink Gear Review, Reloading 7 Comments »
July 6th, 2017

Save Those Fingers — Lyman Case Prep Xpress Under $85.00

Lyman Case Prep Xpress

Every serious hand-loader can use a powered Case Prep station. This multi-function device saves time and avoids repetitive manual labor (that can be downright painful after 50+ cases). Now you can get the Lyman Case Prep Xpress for a crazy low price. Midsouth just slashed its price on the Case Prep Express, and this unit also qualifies for a sweet $25 Rebate from Lyman. That puts your net cost at just $84.99. Hard to argue with that. Your wrists and fingers will thank you.

The Case Prep Xpress lets you chamfer inside and out, brush case-necks, clean/uniform primer pockets, and ream military crimps. However, the unit does NOT trim cases. The motor is powerful and the Xpress is easy to clean. On sale at MidSouth for $109.99 ($84.99 after Rebate), this is a great deal. You can also purchase at Amazon for $107.71 with free Prime Shipping ($82.71 after Rebate).

Lyman Case Prep Xpress gear review

The Lyman Case Prep Xpress comes with all the necessary tools (listed above), so you don’t have to purchase extra accessories. The five (5) gear-driven heads on the unit are powered by a high torque, low-speed motor ideal for case prep operations. Lyman’s Case Prep Xpress features handy storage areas for accessories, a removable brass shavings dump pan, and a handy clean-up brush.

Sinclair Int’l video clearly illustrates all case prep functions. Worth watching.

In the four years that this product has been on the market it has been a strong seller. If you’re prepping hundreds of cases, this unit will save considerable time and reduce hand/finger fatigue. While the Case Prep Xpress is not as sturdy as the metal-bodied Hornady prep center, the Lyman unit offers a lot of functionality for the money.

Lyman Case Prep Xpress Pros and Cons

GOOD Features
Quite Affordable (under $120)
Compatible with RCBS and Redding Tool-heads
Removable Bin for Shavings
Four Brush Sizes: .25, .30, .38, .45
Compact Footprint

Not-So-Good Features
Tool-heads Not Particularly Sharp
No Case Trim Function
No Flash-hole Uniformer
No Top Dust-Cover
Only 1-Year Warranty

Reviews by Verified Purchasers

“Case prep is the most tedious and boring aspect for hand loading in my opinion. The process center makes all the steps in prepping the case very quick and with consistent results. It has reduced the time required to do these steps with separate tools by easily 50% if not more. Highly recommended.” — Brandon G.

“Quiet and capable. Worth every penny. I adapted a Lee Cutter and Lock Stud, to cut case lengths, and I can fly through my brass. I can do so much more brass without getting the sore, cramped-up hands.” — Dean Ellis

“This unit has plenty of torque, and my unit is very quiet. This unit will also work with tools made by RCBS and Hornady, or anything else with 8-32 threads. My Redding tools (specifically, my primer pocket uniformers) do in fact fit on this machine. This unit is certainly worth the money, and will revolutionize the way you reload by saving you massive amounts of time and wear on your hands/fingers.” — Mule

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June 8th, 2017

Advanced Reloading: Sorting Brass by Neck-Wall Thickness

neck sorting tool case-neck Sinclair caliber neck tension

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, sorting your cases helps achieve more uniform neck tension and, thereby, more consistent bullet seating. 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.

Get Better Results with No-Turn Brass
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 (May not load on mobile devices)

Case Neck thickness sorting gauge Sinclair accurateshooter.comHow 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 an 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 indicator (item 749-006-612WB) costs $59.99. Complete with dial indicator (item 749-007-129WB), the tool costs $89.99. IMPORTANT: This tool requires caliber-specific Case Neck Pilots (sold 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.

Permalink Gear Review, Reloading 4 Comments »
October 5th, 2010

H&H Concentricity Gauge and Bullet Straightener

In our feature article on Case Neck Tools we explained the importance of case neck uniformity and reviewed the best tools for measuring case neck thickness. But having uniform case neck walls is only part of the accuracy equation. You also want your cases to exhibit minimal run-out, as measured by a precision tool. For this reason, a quality concentricity gauge belongs on your loading bench if you are looking for the Nth degree of accuracy.

We’ve worked with quite a few concentricity gauges. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, but some just didn’t perform well at all with very short cases like the 6BR and 6PPC. One of our regular readers suggested we check out the H&H Concentricity Gauge, made by Bill Herron in Oregon. So far we are very impressed. A 6BR or PPC case doesn’t tip or rock, causing the needle to jump. We were able to get good, repeatable readings off a seated bullet, which wasn’t easy at all with some of the other units. Our friend agreed with our positive assessment of the H&H, saying: “I have four concentricity gauges. Among these tools, the H&H is the least expensive and the easiest to use of those designed for loaded round measurement AND bullet straightening. It is also built like a brick. However, the Sinclair is [probably] the best for looking at the case alone due to the bearing balls and their adjustability.”

The H&H uses an indicator block to eliminate off-center indicator readings. It will accept .22 PPC through .375 length cases. A reversible spindle acts as a pilot for checking neck thickness. Bill Herron says the unit can also re-align bullets, but we didn’t try out that capability. For more info, visit the H&H Industries website, or call Bill at (541) 327-1411.

H&H concentricity gauge

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January 25th, 2010

SHOT Show Report: New Bench-Source Case Neck Annealer

Now that Zephyr Dynamics’ “Brass-O-Matic” rotary case annealer is no longer in production (Zephyr Dy’s owner received a “job offer he couldn’t refuse”), we were excited to learn that Bench-Source is bringing out an all-new, micro-processor-controlled, automated annealing machine. Bench-Source, based in Mississippi, currently produces high-quality scope bases for Savage target actions. The annealing machine is a new direction for Bench-Source, but it displays the company’s trademark attention to detail and superb machining.

The new Bench-Source automatic case neck annealing machine processes 500-600 cartridges per hour, from 22 Hornet up to the big magnums. Heating time from 1.5 to 10 seconds is precisely controlled by a microprocessor with both a manual mode and “Automatic” mode. Note that the cartridge spins in place when it is at the annealing position, giving a uniform anneal. After annealing, the case exits via a gravity-fed drop port, so you don’t have to handle hot cases. Note: In the video below, the flame you see on some cases is burn-off of temp-indicating marker. Watch carefully and you can see that the case being annealed spins while being heated.

YouTube Preview Image

You can use either one or two heat sources. Torch tips are adjustable in height, angle, distance and vertical tilt by two clamp knobs. Unlike some other units, the flame height is quickly and easily adjustable. We were pleased to see all the top surfaces are metal (no plastic to warp or melt). The solid aluminum table top and index plate are also cooled by a 50-cubic-feet-per-minute fan — they will not heat up significantly during use. Additionally, the table acts as a heat sink to maintain hardness in the cartridge case head.

The unit goes on sale in March 2010. Anticipated retail price is $449.50. To order, visit Bench-Source.com, or contact Vertex Mfg. at (662) 895-0803.

Permalink - Videos, Bullets, Brass, Ammo, New Product 2 Comments »