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August 2nd, 2020

Expanding Cartridge Brass in Stages with Progressive Press

Darrell Jones DJ's Brass Service expanding brass 6mmBR 6BR BRX 30BR Hornady press
Photos from DJ’s Brass Service.

Have you ever expanded a .22 or 6mm cartridge all the way up to .30-caliber? If so, you know this can be a difficult procedure that stresses the case necks and neck-shoulder junction. A significant neck-size expansion done in one big jump can increase run-out, cause doughnuts, or worse yet, even split the brass. Therefore you want to proceed in increments, increasing the neck diameter in stages. One smart way to do that is to use a Progressive Press. This article explains how…

The most successful short-range brenchrest-for-score cartridge is the 30 BR. That cartridge, as well as 30 BR variants such as the 30 BRX, all start with the 6mmBR Norma parent cartridge, typically with Lapua 6mmBR brass. To get a nice 30 BR case you want to expand in stages, increasing the inside neck diameter incrementally from .243 to .308.

Darrell Jones of DJ’s Brass Service creates thousands of 30 BR cases each year. He has found a clever way to speed up the process — Darrell uses a Progressive Press. He runs his 6BR brass through four (4) separate Hornady neck-sizing dies with expander mandrels. First there is a .257 die, followed by .264 (6.5mm), .284 (7mm), and then .308. Then a fifth and final K&M die provides one last, slight expansion so the newly-fashioned 30 BR cases perfectly fit the arbor of Darrell’s neck-turning tool.

So to repeat, the case starts as .243 (6mm), then moves in up stages .257, .264, .284, and .308, with a final “finishing” step prior to neck-turning. You can see the expansion in this video, which starts with 6mmBR brass that was first hydro-formed to 6 BRX:

Watch 6mm Cases Expanded to 30-Caliber (6BRX to 30 BRX)

For this demo video, Darrell expands just one case at a time. However, he can also put multiple cases in the progressive — one per station. This takes a little more effort, Darrell says, but the results are still excellent. Darrell tells us: “I do put multiple cases in the progressive to save time. The results are the same — I just wanted to show a single-step process and how it reduces run-out by not stressing the shoulder with one big expansion from 6mm straight to 30 caliber. Doing the operation in multiple stages avoids binds and helps keep the shoulders concentric.”

This same multi-stage procedure can be use to expand other cartridge types. For example you could take .221 Fireball brass in stages up to .308 to create 300 Blackout brass.

Darrell Jones DJ's Brass Service expanding brass 6mmBR 6BR BRX 30BR Hornady press

Darrell uses caliber-specific, Hornady neck-sizing-only dies with elliptical expanders. Darrell tells us: “The Hornady elliptical expander has a reduced bearing surface that puts less strain on the brass when expanding the necks to the next size.” The fitting at the bottom of the die is the Lock-N-Load die bushing that allows fast die changes.

These particular cases used in the video were first hydro-formed to 6BRX then expanded to 30 BRX before neck turning. DJ’s Brass offers hydro-forming for many popular wildcat cartridges such as 6 PPC, 6mm Dasher, and .284 Shehane.

Darrell Jones DJ's Brass Service expanding brass 6mmBR 6BR BRX 30BR Hornady press

Permalink - Videos, Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Tech Tip 1 Comment »
June 14th, 2020

Precise Neck Expansion with Gage Pin Die from Porter’s Precision

Porter's Precision Gauge Pin Die

Gage Pin Die System Product Review
by F-Class John
Consistent neck tension is often considered key to precision reloading. Neck tension (or interference as it’s more accurately known) helps ensure that the bullet is held with a known amount of pressure ensuring a consistent release each time. The more common expansion method employs expander mandrels. However, there is another lesser-known but very effective method — using GAGE PINS. This article reviews a unique Porter’s Precision Products Reloading Die designed to work with high-quality Gage Pins.

Gage Pins, long-time tool of machinists, are used to measure the size of a bored hole. They come in a variety of sizes and classes. In the reloading world, most people use ZZ Gage Pins that are sized .0005″ apart and are accurate to .0002″. The nice thing about Gage Pins is that you can order them in either a + or – size which means their accuracy errors on one side or the other so by ordering sets of + and – you can effectively make half-sizes. It’s this flexibility and great range of sizes that make Gage Pins so attractive.

For all the good that Gage Pins can do, until now there has not been a handy way to use them in a reloading press. Some folks tried using a bullet puller to hold the Gage Pin. But on many presses, this can be inconvenient because of long handles or unusual height requirements. As a result, I have mostly resorted to using conventional expander mandrels.

But now I have started using precision Gage Pins, thanks to a special new Gage Pin die system from Porter’s Precision Products in Texas. Not long ago I received a video from a friend showing someone using a custom die specifically made for holding Gage Pins. It turns out that Porter’s Precision Products out of Texas makes a custom Gage Pin Die product that consists of a die body, collet, and die cap. Porter’s Precision also sell a wide range of Gage Pins that have been nicely tapered to prevent damage to brass.

Porter's Precision Gauge Pin Die

Using the Porter’s Precision Gauge Pin Die for Expanding Necks
Using the Porter’s Precision Gage Pin die is pretty straight forward with one caveat. The instructions are very clear that the collet must be inserted at an angle into the threaded cap to help ensure it tightens correctly otherwise damage to the collet may occur. Once you do this a couple times it becomes very simple and shouldn’t be a concern, especially since there’s rarely a ready to actually remove the collet unless you’re changing from one caliber range to another.

With the cap and collet now threaded onto the die body, choose the Gage Pin you want to use, insert it into the collet and tighten the cap down. Once the pin is where you want it, use a set of wrenches to firmly tighten the cap down and you’re ready to go. Thread the die in your press and simply adjust the height to ensure the Gage Pin is being inserted fully into the neck of your brass. You want to make sure the entire neck is being expanded without damaging the rim by pushing it to far up inside the die.

General Thoughts — Gage Pins vs. Expander Mandrels
The actual use of Gage Pins on case neck doesn’t vary from expander mandrels. They both accomplish the same goal and which tool you choose really comes down to personal preference. Where Gage Pins really shine is in their durability and the vast selection of sizes/diameters/tolerances. You can even find long-wearing, reduced friction carbide Gage Pins, but they do cost more.

For me, using the Porter’s Precision Die allowed smooth operation and Porter’s Gage Pins are really well-made. This makes expanding a dream even without any lube in the necks (although I still recommend lube when using a steel Gage Pin, as opposed to carbide). If you’ve been in the market for a way to help expand your necks with enhanced consistency, give Gage Pins a try using the Porter’s Precision Gage Pin Die.

Permalink - Articles, Gear Review, New Product, Tech Tip 1 Comment »
August 26th, 2013

K&M Ported Expander Mandrel Riser and Neck-Turner Grip

K&M PrecisionK&M Precision Shooting Products has two very handy products you may not know about yet. The first, a brilliantly simple device that lets you see your case necks as you expand them, can be used by anyone who necks-up brass (with a compatible expander die body). The second new product is a specialized “fat grip” holder that will make neck-turning easier for those of you out there who use K&M neck-turners.

K&M Expand Mandrel Window Riser
This is a simple threaded extension placed between your expander die body (K&M Expand Iron) and the top of your press. It carries the expander mandrel higher, above the press, and has a cut-out view port so you can see the mandrel as it passes through the neck. Smart, eh? This provides visual feedback during the process of expanding your brass. The patent-pending view riser costs $20.00. Will it expand necks faster, or reduce run-out? We doubt it, but we still would like to have one, if only to eyeball the mandrel to control the neck-entry rate more consistently from case to case.

K&M Expander Riser

Installation: Thread the Expand Mandrel Window Riser into the top of your loading press, then thread the K&M Expand-Iron (Expander Die Body) fully into the top of the window riser and adjust each so you can stroke out the press completely without driving the case mouth into the press adapter. This allows you to view the expanding operation which is typically blind under the press. The riser also eliminates the need for the stop screw in the expander mandrel. LINK: Expand Window Riser Instructions (PDF).


Ergo Holder K&MErgo Holder for K&M Neck-Turning Tool
K&M’s rounded, oversized Ergo Holder lets you hold the K&M neck-turning body more securely (and with less hand cramping). Priced at $35.00, it is an expensive accessory, but we suspect many guys with K&M neck-turners will spring for an Ergo holder just because it gives you a more secure and comfortable grip on the small, square-edged K&M neck-turner.

Customer Feedback Inspired K&M’s Ergo Holder
The folks at K&M told us that their new Ergo Holder was produced in response to customer requests: “[Customers reported that] the neck turner can be hard to hold due to its compact size, especially in high-volume use. The Ergo Holder is machined from aluminum, providing a fatigue-proof grasp of the neck turner. Its mass works like a heat sink to help dissipate heat from the pilot during the turning process. The neck-turner body easily assembles into the Ergo Holder and is held in place with one set screw. The Ergo holder is also designed with the dial indicator in mind and actually makes its use more convenient”.
LINK: Ergo Holder Installation/Use Instructions (PDF).

Permalink Gear Review, Reloading No Comments »
December 6th, 2011

See-Through Expander Riser and Ergo Holder from K&M

K&M PrecisionK&M Precision Shooting Products has two very handy products you may not know about yet. The first, a brilliantly simple device that lets you see your case necks as you expand them, can be used by anyone who necks-up brass (with a compatible expander die body). The second new product is a specialized “fat grip” holder that will make neck-turning easier for those of you out there who use K&M neck-turners.

K&M Expand Mandrel Window Riser
This is a simple threaded extension placed between your expander die body (K&M Expand Iron) and the top of your press. It carries the expander mandrel higher, above the press, and has a cut-out view port so you can see the mandrel as it passes through the neck. Smart, eh? This provides visual feedback during the process of expanding your brass. The patent-pending view riser costs $20.00. Will it expand necks faster, or reduce run-out? We doubt it, but we still would like to have one, if only to eyeball the mandrel to control the neck-entry rate more consistently from case to case.

K&M Expander Riser

Installation: Thread the Expand Mandrel Window Riser into the top of your loading press, then thread the K&M Expand-Iron (Expander Die Body) fully into the top of the window riser and adjust each so you can stroke out the press completely without driving the case mouth into the press adapter. This allows you to view the expanding operation which is typically blind under the press. The riser also eliminates the need for the stop screw in the expander mandrel. LINK: Expand Window Riser Instructions (PDF).


Ergo Holder K&MErgo Holder for K&M Neck-Turning Tool
K&M’s rounded, oversized Ergo Holder lets you hold the K&M neck-turning body more securely (and with less hand cramping). Priced at $35.00, it is an expensive accessory, but we suspect many guys with K&M neck-turners will spring for an Ergo holder just because it gives you a more secure and comfortable grip on the small, square-edged K&M neck-turner.

Customer Feedback Inspired K&M’s Ergo Holder
The folks at K&M told us that their new Ergo Holder was produced in response to customer requests: “[Customers reported that] the neck turner can be hard to hold due to its compact size, especially in high-volume use. The Ergo Holder is machined from aluminum, providing a fatigue-proof grasp of the neck turner. Its mass works like a heat sink to help dissipate heat from the pilot during the turning process. The neck-turner body easily assembles into the Ergo Holder and is held in place with one set screw. The Ergo holder is also designed with the dial indicator in mind and actually makes its use more convenient”.
LINK: Ergo Holder Installation/Use Instructions (PDF).

Credit Forum Member EdLongRange for spotting these new K&M products.
Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, New Product, Reloading 2 Comments »