Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Reloading, A Beginner's Guide Part II

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In the first installment of our series on reloading, we discussed the methods and procedures for cleaning, depriming, and reloading straight walled cases. In this article, we will discuss reloading bottle necked cartridges. Most necked down cartridges are rifle calibers, but there are a few notable exceptions, notably .357 Sig and Tokarev. The FN 5.7mm cartridge is bottle necked as well, but it is a proprietary round and is very difficult to properly (and safely) reload.

Lyman Classic Tumbler
As with straight walled brass, make sure that your bottle necked brass is clean and free from debris. With bottle necked rifle brass, it's generally a good idea to run your brass through a polisher. This cleans off powder residue as well as any dirt or corrosion from the brass. Make sure that once you are done polishing and cleaning your brass that there is no polishing media left on the outside or inside of the brass. Polishing and cleaning the brass helps make resizing much easier. Dirt, grit, or corrosion on your brass can scratch or damage your steel dies. Carbide dies don't have this problem, but having nicely lubed clean brass means that you don't have to pull so hard on the press lever when resizing.

Reloading bottle necked cartridges is actually fairly easy compared to reloading straight walled brass, but you do have to take the additional step of utilizing case lube. The primary difference between reloading straight walled cases and bottle neck cases is the resizing process. Bottle neck dies perform a lot of work with a single pull of the press lever. When resizing brass, the die not only resizes the case and deprimes the brass, it also has an expander ball that is plunged down the neck of the case so that new bullets can be seated.

Hornaday One-Shot Case Lube
When lubing your rifle brass, it is critically important to spray your case lube all around the outside as well as down the case mouth. This lubes the inside of the case for the expander ball. To properly lube the cases, set them all in a loading block with the mouth of the case up. Spray the cases on one side and from above at an angle so that the lubricant not only goes on the outside but also sprays down inside the neck. Turn the loading block so that all 360 degrees of the cases get lubed. Don't be afraid of over lubricating the cases. You CAN spray too much (though it's difficult), but it's far better to use too much lube than not enough lube. Failure to use enough case lube will result in your case becoming stuck in the die. Getting a case stuck in a die is a nightmare scenario, so don't do it! If you think you've got enough lube, go ahead and give the cases one more spray, just for good measure.

Once your brass is cleaned and lubed and you've got your resizing die properly adjusted and locked down as we discussed in our previous article, place your brass on the shell holder and lower the ram. You'll begin to feel resistance as the expander ball is plunged through the neck of the case. One of the reasons that reloading necked brass is a bit easier than straight walled brass is that the dies for your necked down brass perform more operations with a single pull of the lever. The resizing die decaps the primer, resizes the brass, and expands the case neck to receive a new bullet, all in a single stroke.

Now that your brass has been resized, clean off the lubricant and inspect the brass for any cracks, creases, or bright spots near the head. A bright ring around the head at the base of the cartridge indicates stressed brass that will result in a case head separation. You may notice little dimples on your brass: this is not a big deal, and it occurs from using too much case lube. Large dimples occur when you have managed to use far too much lubricant. Brass with large dimples should be discarded.

In my experience, it is not usually necessary to measure and trim pistol brass after resizing. The same cannot be said about rifle cases. Use a dial caliper to ensure that all of your brass is the same correct length. You can also load the resized brass into your firearm to make sure it will chamber. Use a case trimmer to trim off any excess length.

Priming your rifle brass is the same procedure as priming your pistol brass. First, make sure that your primer pocket is cleaned out. Make sure that you have the correct size primer - large pistol and rifle primers can appear to be the same size, but they are not! Using the correct size tools and primers, prime all of your brass and make sure that the primers are seated to the proper depth. Primers that are set too high can be slam-fired in semiautomatic rifles.

Hornaday Seating Die

When loading your powder, make sure that you have the right kind of powder. Using pistol powders in a rifle case can result in over-pressure and detonation, potentially destroying your rifle and injuring or killing you. It is very difficult (though not impossible) to double charge a rifle case if you are using the correct powders. Still, pay close attention. When developing a load, always double check your loads against a current reloading manual. Start at 50% of the manual's recommended load and work up from there. Once you have a load developed, make sure to periodically check your powder measure against a scale to ensure that it remains consistent and accurate.

The final process in reloading rifle ammunition is seating and crimping the bullet. Since rifle cases are not flared, it can be more difficult to seat a flat based bullet. Boat tail bullets are much easier to seat. If you are loading flat based bullets, it helps to have a bevel cut in the case mouth using a chamfer or deburring tool. While crimping is not necessarily required for rifle rounds, it definitely helps when you are loading large caliber or magnum rounds. Crimping is definitely necessary if you are loading for a tube magazine fed rifle, as it will keep the bullets from being set back. Some bullet seating dies also crimp at the same time. Seat the first bullet, then measure your overall case length. Once you are certain the length is in spec, lock down your bullet seating die and proceed to seat bullets in the rest of your cartridges.

As always, observe proper safety procedures when reloading ammunition. Make sure that you have a clean and organized work area that is free from distractions. Never try to watch TV or listen to the radio while reloading - you're working with potentially dangerous explosives that require 100% of your attention. Always wear proper eye protection when reloading. Remember that lead and primers are toxic and wash your hands every time after reloading.

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