March 6th, 2021

How to Hydro-Form Cartridge Brass — Save Money and Barrel Life

6mm Dasher hydroforming case die hornady

Can you form a wildcat cartridge such as the 6mm Dasher or 6 BRA (BR Ackley) without expending primer, powders, and bullets? Absolutely. Using the hydro-forming method you can form improved cases in your workshop with no firing whatsoever, so there is no wear on your precious barrel. Watch this video to see how it’s done for the 6 Dasher:

6 Dasher Case Hydro-Forming Demonstration:

Forum member Wes J. (aka P1ZombieKiller) has produced a helpful video showing how to form Dasher cases use the Hornady Hydraulic forming die kit. This includes a two-part die (body and piston), and a special shell holder. To form the case, you insert a primer in your virgin brass, top the case off with with a fluid (water or alcohol), then run the case up into the Hydro-forming die. A few stout whacks with a hammer and your case is 95% formed.

6mm Dasher hydroforming hydraulic 6mmBR hornadyHydro-Forming Procedure Step-by-Step:
1. Insert spent primer in new 6mmBR brass case.
2. Fill with water or alcohol (Wes prefers alcohol).
3. Wipe excess fluid off case.
4. Place case in special Hornady shell-holder (no primer hole).
5. Run case up into Hydraulic forming die.
6. Smack top piston of forming die 3-4 times with rubber mallet or dead-blow hammer.
7. Inspect case, re-fill and repeat if necessary.
8. Drain alcohol (or water) into container.
9. Remove primer (and save for re-use).
10. Blow-dry formed case. Inspect and measure formed case.

Wes achieves very uniform cartridge OALs with this method. He measured ten (10) hydro-formed 6 Dasher cases and got these results: two @ 1.536″; 2 @ 1.537″; and 6 @ 1.538″.

Three or Four Whacks Produces a 95%-Formed Case
With a Hornady hydro-forming die, hydraulic pressure does the job of blowing out the shoulders of your improved case. The process is relatively simple. Place a spent primer in the bottom of a new piece of brass. Fill the case with water, and then slip it into a special Hornady shell-holder with no hole in the middle. Then you run the case up into the forming die. Now comes the fun part. You gently insert a plunger (hydraulic ram) from the top, and give it three or four stiff whacks with a mallet (or better yet, a dead-blow hammer). Remove the plunger and you have a 95% formed case, ready to load.

Walter Queen Hydraulic Hornady DieSpecial Shell-Holder
Hornady supplies a shell holder made specifically for the hydro die; there’s no hole in the bottom of it. Just insert a spent primer into the primer pocket and you’re ready to go. The spent primer, combined with the solid shell holder, keeps the water from seeping out of the primer pocket. The primer pushes out a little bit during this process, but it’s impossible for it to come out because of the way the shell holder is designed. The shell holder has a grove which allows the case to slide out of the shell holder even when the primer protrudes a bit.

Another Option — Hydro-Forming by DJ’s Brass Service
If you want to hydro-form your brass to save barrel life but you don’t want to go through the effort, or purchase the hydro-forming dies, there is a very good option. Darrell Jones of DJ’s Brass Service will do the job for a modest charge. You send Darrel your brass and he does all the hard work, preparing perfectly formed brass. Darrell can also anneal and/or neck-turn your cases — all for a reasonable fee.

DJ's Brass hydroform hydro-formingDJ’s Brass Service offers case hydro-forming to your exact specs. Darrell Jones offers this service for a variety of popular cartridges: 6 PPC, 30 PPC, 30 BR, 6 BRA (BR Ackley), 6mm Grinch, 6 BRDX, 6 BRX, .260 Ackley, .284 Shehane and of course the very popular 6mm Dasher. After hydro-forming your brass, Darrell can also neck-up or neck-down the cases to meet your needs. For example, if you shoot a 22 Dasher, Darrell can hydro-form the cases to a 6 Dasher and then neck them down to .22 caliber. He can also turn the necks to your specs (for an additional charge). Hydro-forming by Darrell costs $0.60 (sixty cents) per case with a minimum order of $60 per hundred. NOTE: After cases are hydro-formed by Darrell, every case is washed, cleaned, and re-annealed. This cleaning and annealing process is included in the $0.60 (sixty cents) per case price.

DJ's Brass hydro-forming neck turning case forming

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