All the prep work… oye

Now I remember why I don’t like reloading rifle cartridges.

All the prep work. 🙂

I’m finally getting back on the reloading wagon. After doing some clean and lube maintenance on the presses, I took 100 pieces of new .223 Remington Remington-brand brass and started the prep work on them. I opted to use the single-stage press and just did a full-length resize (small-base die) on all 100 pieces. I then trimmed the cases to 1.740″. Why that low? I’m going to use my new RCBS X-Die and, if I read all the directions correctly, you take the brass, do a full-length resize, then trim it 0.020″ under the max case length. Thus for .223 Rem it comes out to 1.740″. Run it through all the stations on the RCBS case prep tool (chamfer and debur the mouth, uniform the primer pocket, etc.). And then we’re done. Ugh. 100 cases took almost 2 hours. It’s just slow and tedious.

Once I finished all of that, I did set up the X-Die on the Hornady Lock-n-Load progressive press. Haven’t set up the rest of the progressive press yet. I’m curious to see how the X-Die works out, and of course if I set things up correctly. 🙂  I figure any time from here out when I deal with brass I’ll first use the single-stage press to do the full-length resize, trim it for the X-Die, then from here on out I hope I can skip all that prep work and can just go straight to the X-die on the progressive press. Hopefully in the long run that will save some time and trouble, yet still yield quality ammo.

Rereading the last iterating of my plan, I think it’ll work out. I don’t see any need to change plans. The one thing I’m not sure about tho is my sights. See, the particular AR I’ll be using presently has irons, and will have an Aimpoint CompM4s as soon as it gets here. Will that be an accurate enough scope for the load development? I’m not sure. I mean, a 2 MOA dot, trying to develop an accurate load… I’m not sure I’ll get there. Trouble is, I don’t have another scope to go around. What I might end up doing is taking the scope off my 6.8 SPC hunting rifle and putting it atop my Rock River Arms upper. Thing is there, that’s a stainless steel barrel, 1:8 twist, Wylde chamber and well…. should I work to develop for that when it’s not what I’ll generally use? Conversely, shooting the load out of both uppers would help me determine what’s going to be more general-purpose useful out of any upper I have. So… I’m not sure yet how I’ll do the testing. But I guess I need to go figure that out before I start loading.

10 thoughts on “All the prep work… oye

  1. For new brass I just run then necks through an expander (or full length sizer) die to make sure they’re round. If they’re not Lapua, uniform the flash holes and maybe uniform the primer pockets (with Lapua or Norma, you don’t really need to touch either). I don’t trim until the cases have been fired at least once. Unless of course, I’m neck turning in which case the full length sizer and trimming are mandatory before firing to get the shoulders and necks consistent (since all neck sizers index off those two things).

    For load development, you want some magnification. For a fighting gun where you’re not expecting more than ~1moa accuracy, you don’t need that that much. If you want sub 0.5moa accuracy, more the merrier. My AR has a 10 power scope and I can get 0.5-0.7moa accuracy on a good day; I’m happy with that so I’m not inclined to change the scope; it’s probably the trigger that’s limiting accuracy more. You can always get a Sightron SI 3-9×40 for less than $200 that makes a pretty good scope for these casual load dev. purposes, or a Weaver T-36 for $400 if you want to be hardcore about it (the T-36 is commonly used for load development by people who compete with open sights, along with benchresters and F-classers generally).

    • My hope is with the X-Die that I’ll only have to do all that brass prep the first time. If forever after it has the X-Die and it lives up to its promises, I’m good. This particular load is just going to be plinking stuff but hey, if I can wring performance out of it I want to. One thing I did was obtain a wide variety of factory ammo of similar ilk to the components I’ll be loading. Later in the process I’ll be shooting them for accuracy and over a chronograph, which should then give me a good point of comparison.

      That T-36 may be something to consider. Not that expensive, all things considered. Might be the sort of thing to just get for load development… swap it in just for development purposes. Hrm. Good suggestion. I’ll have to check finances. 🙂

    • Just did some Googling on that T-36. That sounds like a winner to help with load development. Get that and use it purely as a load development scope (or maybe if I try my hand at 1000 yards someday, that’ll be useful).

      Now to set aside the money for it….

  2. Yeah, it’s a good scope for the money and a good scope for that purpose.

    I use a variation on this technique to work up a good load:
    http://optimalchargeweight.embarqspace.com/

    Instead of percentages I just work in 0.2-0.3gr increments.

    If you’re loading .223 and heavy 75-77gr bullets, you will get good results with 23-25gr of Varget or RL-15.

    • OO… nice website. I started reading, but will have to finish it later. Thank you!

      I’m going to load 55gr FMJ’s because I have a ton of them. I’m also going to use Ramshot TAC because I have a bunch of it and it’ll flow like water which is good for my progressive press. I’m at a point not of trying to make a killer load but of trying to just make sure I have rifle reloading process down. I’ve only tried reloading rifle once before and it was a dismal failure, but I don’t know why (too many possible factors and I ran out of money and patience to figure it out… those Barnes bullets are just too expensive). So my plan is to start simple and cheap to ensure I’m getting the groove of rifle reloading down. Once I know I’ve got the groove and flow and am doing things right, then I’ll start looking into making more serious loads. And I’m not even really wanting to load .223… that’s more a matter of “what’s on hand and most cost-effective to experiment/learn with”. My longer-term goal is loading 6.8 SPC to get a good hunting load for that with the Barnes TTSX 6.8 SPC 95gr bullet (optimally designed for 6.8). Tho it may be that I’ll do the cheap .223’s first, then try to make a good .223 hunting load (e.g. 60gr Nosler Partition?). Then 6.8 plinking, then the 6.8 TTSX load.

      Don’t know. Much to think about. 🙂 And apparently now, much to read!

  3. Pingback: Only 3 shots? or… 7? maybe 5 or 10. What’s statistically best? « Stuff From Hsoi

  4. I agree. Case prep is a pain. I think the biggest pain is cleaning the cases after sizing/decapping. I’m working out my processes to make it go by as quickly as possible. I’ve switched to spray lube, and I have jars of Isopropyl Alcohol that I dump the cases into to get the lube off afterward for cleaning. Primer pocket cleaning was the bane of my case-prep process, until I came up with a system involving a cordless drill and q-tips. 😉

    BTW, the I’m using TAC to develop my .223 hunting load. Using 5.56 data, I’ve got a 24.9 grain charge of TAC with a Speer 70 grain Semi-Spitzer soft-point (#1053) moving along at just over 2800fps out of my 16″ barrel, with pretty decent grouping. The OAL I’m using for that is 2.155″. I ran out of bullets before I could do the full range of the workup I wanted, so I’ve got a few more groups to test out that should give more velocity. I’ve heard from others that this bullet doesn’t like to go much past 2800fps, so the 24.9 grain charge may be what I stick with. They’re nice bullets, though, and I’ve had nary a feeding issue with around 150 of them through my rifle. (So much for those “soft points will make your AR jam!” naysayers)

    Are you a member of ARC? We ought to go shooting sometime.

    • Drills and q-tips. I like. 🙂

      I am hoping that using that RCBS X-die will help speed the process. We’ll see.

      That hunting load sounds good. I’m still tossing around what I’d want to use for a .223 hunting bullet. While I love Barnes Bullets, some people say they’re tricky to get right. Not sure if that was a factor in my previous .223 reloading failings. I still think I should consider it, if for nothing else I’ve still got a bunch of ’em sitting on the shelf. If it works out, great. If not then… not. 🙂 One thing I did do was pick up a box of CorBon’s DPX Hunter ammo that uses the 62 grain TSX. My hope is to use it 1. as a performance standard, 2. to get the OAL and any other ideas that I can (e.g. pull a bullet and see what’s going on).

      I am a member of ARC. If my schedule can ever let up yeah, shooting would be fun.

      • Yeah, going to the alcohol bath for cleaning the lube meant that a normal pocket cleaner didn’t scrape the crud out like before. I started with qtips by hand, but that got very tiring.

        I set up the drill with the chuck opened up to the point that there’s enough tensionon to keep the case in place, but not so much that you can’t pull it in and out by hand. Stick in a case, qtip in pocket, and a quick spin renders a shiny clean primer pocket. I actually got the idea after setting the drill up this way for crimp removal, and realized that it was ideal for pocket cleaning as well.

        I’m not familiar with this X-die gadget. I’ll have to look it up and see how it magically (due to sufficiently advanced technology) keeps cases from growing and requiring further trimming.

        What ended up happening with the Barnes bullets? I don’t know what twist rate barrel you’re using, but you may need to consider that an all-copper bullet is going to be significantly longer than its lead counterpart, and will require a faster spin to stabilize than will a lead bullet of the same weight. That is the reason I like the Speer bullets. The shape of them makes for a 70 grain bullet that’s only slightly longer than a 55gr FMJ, meaning it can be stabilized in barrels as slow as 1:10.

        I agree, specialty bullets are probably not the best way to foray into rifle loading. I’d say start with a standard FMJ bullet and work around with it so you get a good feel for it. Move on to fancy stuff a little further down the road.

        Lemme know when you get a free weekend day, and we’ll throw some lead down range. I’ll likely have my hunting load established by then, so you can try out the 70 grain Speer and see how you like it.

        • The X-Die from RCBS. Supposedly makes life happy. Reports online are very positive and people are really happy with it. Spoke with another guy I know here in town and he gives it his seal of approval. So, figured I should try it myself. If it works, I’m only bummed because they don’t have a die for 6.8 SPC.

          I do know the Barnes are longer and that is possible it was the problem, but I tried a bunch of other factory loads with that same rifle with different bullets and such and they performed great (1:9 twist). So in theory the 62 grain Barnes should have been fine. But the one thing I couldn’t try was a factory load with the 62 grain Barnes itself. Now that I was able to get a hold of a box of that CorBon DPX Hunter using the 62 grain TSX well… that will be telling.

          Anyways, after much failing with that, I decided that when I got back to rifle reloading (I did some 10000+ 9mm and like 5000 .38 Special over the past some months), I’d try to simplify things and see what the deal was. Was it me? Was it the equipment? Was it something else? In the midst of all that I also got my LockNLoad Progressive press, so that throws another factor into the mix. I got a bunch of 55 grain FMJBT’s when I bought all the reloading equipment off Dock, so I figured just start there. Make a simple plinking load with the cheap components I already have on hand (brass, bullets, powder, etc.) and see how it goes. See if it’s me, see if the progress press changes anything (e.g. more consistent than when I did everything on a single stage), and just try to work the bugs out of my system. So, that’s my present course of action. Make a .223 plinker load, MAYBE try a .223 hunting load, then move to 6.8 SPC with the goal there to be loading the 6.8 95 grain TTSX (that bullet is purpose-built for 6.8 SPC and has amazing performance… flies like the 85 grain TSX, hits like the 110 grain TSX and actually is better because of the polymer tip so it’ll expand down to much lower velocities; has taken numerous hogs and deer and other stuff since its introduction less than a year ago). You have to handload it to get the best results… SSA tried to make a factory load for it but it just doesn’t perform that great if you try to make a load that can work out of any gun… need to find a load for YOUR gun.

          Unfortunately I don’t have any free weekends for a long time. Holding down so many jobs, kids, etc. keeps me overbooked. Trying to improve that situation tho. Stay tuned.

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