February 4th, 2017

How to Fire-Form Brass without Bullets

Fire-Form Brass Cream of Wheat Dasher BRDX

Many of our Forum members shoot an “improved” 6mmBR cartridge. This might be a 30°-shoulder 6mm BRX, or a 40°-shoulder 6mm Dasher, or the 6mm BRDX, which is very similar to the Dasher, but with a slightly longer neck. This Editor shoots a 6mm BRDX and has found it very accurate, and maybe a bit easier to fire-form than a standard Dasher. Speaking of fire-forming, in our Shooters’ Forum, we often see questions about fire-forming BRX/Dasher brass. For those who need a large number of BRX or Dasher cases, one option to consider is using pistol powder in a dedicated fire-forming barrel. Here’s an explanation of how this process can work.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading, Tech Tip 4 Comments »
February 9th, 2012

Fire-Forming Dasher Brass with Pistol Powder

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading 12 Comments »
July 18th, 2011

Revive Your Brass with DJ’s Brass Service & Restoration

With top-quality cartridge brass approaching $1.00 per case, it’s more important than ever to get maximum life from your match brass. Annealing can extend the useful life of your brass, and ultrasonic cleaning allows you to eliminate carbon build-up inside cases that have been fired numerous times. You can certainly do annealing and ultrasonic cleaning yourself, but to get the best (and most consistent) results, you’ll need to invest in quality equipment and spend a good deal of time and effort learning how to use it properly. Likewise, turning case necks requires expensive tools, and it takes time and practice before you’ll get perfectly-turned necks.

DJs Brass Offers Annealing, Cleaning, and Neck-Turning
If you don’t have the resources to purchase annealing and ultrasonic cleaning machines, or if you don’t have the time to neck-turn hundreds of cases — don’t fret, there is an affordable option. DJsBrass.com, run by benchrest shooter Darrell Jones, offers annealing, ultrasonic cleaning, neck-turning, and complete brass prep services (including OAL trimming) at very reasonable rates. Darrell will anneal 100 cases for $15, and he’ll neck-turn your cases (any caliber), starting at $30.00 per hundred. Even if you’re a skilled neck-turner, if you just acquired a new caliber, it might make sense to send the work to Darrell, instead of purchasing new expander mandrels and turning arbors.

False-Shoulder Forming for Wildcats
Do you shoot an “improved” short-necked wildcat like the 6mm Dasher? Want your fire-forming to go without a hitch? Darrell can take your parent brass and create a false shoulder so you get a good crush fit in the chamber. If you’re running a tight-necked chamber he can create a false shoulder AND turn the top half of the neck to fit your chamber.

Video Shows Annealing Process
In the video below, Darrell explains the wide variety of brass restoration services he offers. Darrell says he can “bring your brass back to life” and we have found that to be true. We had some 6mmBR brass with no-turn necks that started to lose their “competitive edge” after just 7-8 loadings. The neck tension had become inconsistent from case to case, and bullet seating force (measured with a gauge-equipped K&M arbor press) varied widely. We were seeing unexplained flyers, and ES had nearly doubled compared to when the brass was fresh. Annealing the cases really made a difference. The neck tension was much more consistent and bullets seated more uniformly with less “spiking” of seating force. Paying $15 for annealing is a lot cheaper than buying a new box of brass for $80.00 or more!

Darrell offers a variety of services at affordable rates. To order work by Darrell, visit DJsBrass.com, or call (205) 461-4680:

Case Annealing Only
Cost: $15.00/100 for standard cases; $20.00/100 for magnum cases.*

Combination Service (Cleaning and Annealing)
Ultrasonic Cleaning, Check for split necks, Anneal case necks.
Cost: Starting at $20.00/100 standard and $25.00/100 for magnum cases.*

Full Service (Case Prep, Cleaning, Annealing)
Uniform primer pockets, Chamfer, Ultrasonic cleaning/polishing, Anneal case necks.
Cost: Starting at $30.00/100 and up.*

Neck Turning or Trim-to-Length Custom Order Service
Cost: Starting at $30.00/100 for standard cases.*
(Darrell can also resize necks or false shoulder your cases. Call for quotes.)

Muzzle Brake Ultrasonic Cleaning
Removes carbon buildup to restore critical bullet clearance requirements.
Cost: $15.00 + flat rate USPS actual shipping.

*Add USPS flat-rate return shipping. Call (205) 461-4680 for quotes on miscellaneous, military bulk brass or high volume discount. Note: Prices subject to change.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, New Product, Reloading 1 Comment »