Reloading series

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Reloading series

Postby Doug Coulter » Thu Jul 04, 2013 5:02 pm

I'm doing a series of videos (and some words here) about reloading to save money and make better ammo than factories can. Note, it's very much NOT that they don't know how - they just don't know your gun, and a good fit is crucial to accuracy and reliability. They have the latter pretty much hammered, but have to make ammo at the small end of the SAAMI specs so it will fit in the tightest/dirtiest chamber, resulting in a loose fit in most actual guns. This results in poor accuracy, as if a bullet doesn't enter the barrel perfectly straight, the pressures involved will deform it - and it won't fly straight thereafter. Gun control is hitting your target - and only your target!

Here's the video intro:
http://youtu.be/4R2ZpFxnS8k


Please pay special attention whenever I use the word "safe" or related. This is pretty safe if you do it carefully. Every handloader should remember this mantra as the top one - the trashcan is your friend. Anything that looks the least bit wrong, is wrong, ditch it, it's not worth it safety wise to recover a bad piece of brass, it's not THAT expensive, but medical bills from a piece of brass that lets go during firing might cost a lot more.

Note, absolutely no one is paying me even a penny to do this - if I say some product is good, it's because I think so myself, having paid for it. This gives me the freedom to also mention ones I've run into that aren't so good...and I will.
Posting as just me, not as the forum owner. Everything I say is "in my opinion" and YMMV -- which should go for everyone without saying.
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Re: Reloading series

Postby Doug Coulter » Thu Jul 04, 2013 5:29 pm

For the Scottish at heart (which includes even well off people such as myself), of course one of the attractions of reloading/handloading is that you save some money by reusing brass. I do this, as well as buy it new, depending. It's worth a lot more as brass for your gun - that is now fire-formed to fit it precisely, than it is $ at the recycle joint. Note, in my own case, I only bother to collect brass of known provenance - that from my own range, or shot from my own guns, so as to keep tabs on lifetime issues. In particular, rifle brass does have a lifetime - it is stretched a bit every firing, and when you resize it, it grows in length. Eventually, you have to trim it to the spec length - a major safety issue - or the too-long neck will now make the loaded round hard to chamber, and may pinch the bullet, making pressures rise to unsafe levels. About the time that's happening, the brass that you trimmed off had to come from someplace, right? It mostly came from a place just above the base, which gets thinner every time you fire it. Eventually it becomes unsafe to fire. This is why I DO NOT get used brass from third parties - it may be right there when you get it - ready to fail, which is why that third party didn't save it themselves.
I use a trick with new brass that's worth relating. I trim it a couple tens of mils below the spec length. If I have to trim it - once - that's OK. The second time? Remember the mantra - the trashcan is a reloader's best friend.

Anyway, this shows a neat tool for just finding your brass and picking it up with minimal stooping and combing in the grass. This tool works especially well for handgun bullets, especially the larger ones - .40 and .45, as those are the hardest to find in the grass, from my experience. They are very base heavy and tend to stand on end, with any glint off your brass (you DID clean it, right?) hard to see. Of course, it's better to mow first, so it's easier to see and to pick up, but this tool will find brass when the naked eye does a poor job, so it was worth sharing.
http://youtu.be/T0cm0E4VQ7k


We'll go into much more detail on brass prep and safety later in the series. I just don't want to leave out any safety tips along the way. Let me repeat the mantra - if anything is the least bit odd or not right - the trashcan is a reloaders best friend.
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Re: Reloading series

Postby Doug Coulter » Thu Jul 04, 2013 5:56 pm

Separating your brass - you have to do it at some point anyway. In this case I'm doing it first, before cleaning, for two reasons - one is that I have more than one tumbler load, and the other is that I have some .45 acp in there - and it just doesn't play well with others in the tumbler - it gets jammed over all the other sizes and neither gets clean. Everyone hates to have to do it over...and they can get so stuck you ruin both pieces trying to pull them apart with pliers, so it's better to do it first.

Note - this is one of many times you might have the chance to look at each piece of brass - DO IT. If you get something nasty, a big dent in the side, corrosion, whatever - time to hit the trash can or recycle bin with it. Your life and health aren't worth losing over 50 cents worth of brass. While you might miss one at any one point, you'll be touching each piece of brass several times during this process, and that gives you a much better chance of catching the bad stuff - do it, toss it.

http://youtu.be/yb3AONdQ2yg
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Re: Reloading series

Postby Doug Coulter » Thu Jul 04, 2013 6:49 pm

Now we clean the separated brass. I use a vibratory tumbler I got at midwayusa (one of my favorite vendors, real good people, straight shooters all the way). I use lizard litter, which is the very same stuff the gun vendors sell as "crushed walnut hulls" - only it's about half the price at the pet store - so...you guys know I'm Scottish, right? Please note, the single case of lead poisoning that has ever been reported in reloading is due to lead residue from primers (which use lead azide as the active ingredient) that can get into the air while doing this. For this reason, I do it outdoors, or with a lid indoors, in a building I don't actually live in, and let the dust settle before taking the lid off. Note! This is important to your safety, so do pay attention!

Starting the process:
http://youtu.be/KJPZzViXV2E


Rain chased me indoors, so you get to see some of my squalor at my main production reloading room here, oh well - you're going to see a lot more of this room eventually (as well as the one I work up loads in prior to going full production). This is where we take the cleaned brass and separate it from the cleaning media, short and sweet. While there are other ways to do this cleaning job, this is the one I like best personally. It involves the very least work on my part...just turn the thing on, leave, come back later and dump it all out. Other methods do work too, this is just what I do personally.
http://youtu.be/RTGFGUVWQjE


Remember, the best way to do this is someplace you don't have to be while it's going on. It's noisy as heck, and there is that slight risk of getting enough lead into the air (from primers, not bullets) to harm you, as someone once managed to do. Some room with a door you can shut is ideal, another building, as I happen to have, is better yet.

Next, we'll get into inspecting and checking the brass - some is surely going to hit the trash can or recycle bin before it gets into the rest of the process. Here is where we will branch off into two sets of considerations - one for plinking grade ammo - just safety checks, and one for match grade, where we do considerably more steps and work to ensure we have the very best, most repeatable ammo it's possible to create, that fits just one gun - perfectly. Some of those steps you cannot easily use for the popular semi autos - those require full length resizing and a loose fit for reliable feeding. But you don't shoot one of those at matches, or at least I don't except rarely to prove that yes, an AR-15 can be competitive with bolt guns if you get it right. Most of the time, I use an easier to shoot, and more accurate bolt rifle for that - single loaded. If it's that good, and this one is, one shot is all you'll need anyway, per target. My Cooper in .223 is good for better than 50 mil (.05") accuracy at 100 meters...the AR is only .25" on a good day, and it's a good AR with a heavy barrel I've tuned the snot out of. The reason - the rounds get handled harshly going in, have to fit loose, and might get a little bent on the way in. If you carefully hand load my AR, it becomes just as good - but then it's more work to shoot than a bolt gun is(!).

While doing this, I found a video of Jerry Miculek doing it all industrial. Seems to work for him, but he's only about the best short range competitor out there - I might give him a run at "marksmanship" ranges on accuracy, but certainly not speed.
Jerry rocks. Period. Check some of his videos on shooting, there's a lot to learn. First, have forearms like popeye, then...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O5y_dsP3dsM
Posting as just me, not as the forum owner. Everything I say is "in my opinion" and YMMV -- which should go for everyone without saying.
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Re: Reloading series

Postby solar_dave » Fri Jul 05, 2013 11:08 am

So far a great series Doug.
I made a few custom tools to help clean things like primer pockets. Used to wear my hand out with a hand wire brush.

I usually start with "virgin" brass for the long guns so I know the age at all times, especially for the tack drivers. It is pretty amazing how little stretch shows up when just neck sizing.
On the hunting stuff I use a full length die set to just "kiss" the shoulder so they load in the gun easily, really important on my single shot Ruger #1s.
The pistol stuff less so, as pressures and stretching is less a concern, but they do stretch as well if the chambers are loose and I of course full length size the wheel gun stuff.
I like Winchester brass, but not bought any in 15 years and the supply is holding up well! :lol:
An interesting one to load is the 30 carbine, expensive full length carbide die is a must, they are very fussy on length and that die was hard to find. :mrgreen:
RCBS went a long time without having any in stock and I finally got lucky and found one at a show. I bet they don't make that one often.
About 20 years ago I found a guy with buckets of the 30 carbine once fire military, took advantage of that situation.
Now that I have the surface grinder up and running I am going to make a precision length measuring tool with dial indicator when I get some time.
Don't forget to tell them if you use once fired military the primer pockets will need reaming to remove the crimps.
I still have a can or 2 1950's 30 carbine unfired Lake City in stripper clips. You just can't find that stuff anymore.

Do you cast anything for the pistols?

I am cleaning up the loading bench this weekend, you have motivated me! I need to add a light under the cabinets too, so important to see what you are doing.
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Re: Reloading series

Postby Doug Coulter » Fri Jul 05, 2013 2:13 pm

Dave, this is obviously something you can contribute to with good effect for all. Another Dave (the one I teach the CCW course with) will also be involved. I also have a pro ammo manufacturer on tap (Dianne Bishop of Bishop ammo) I hope to get in here. If you see her on G+, be sure to drop in and say hi - you'll learn some things, as I did, I bet. Her attention to quality control and the special tools she's had made to help are simply awesome - and this is someone who has worn out quite a few Dillons in the game - heck, mine is barely broken in with a mere few tens of thousands of rounds through it!

Here's the plan - I want this thread to just cover basics for newbs, not scare them off with the fancy details for we advanced practitioners -that's what the magic of hypertext is for - so we can link out of a basic thread for newbs to the much more advanced stuff we know and practice - which we'll put in other threads in this forum. Else we are in danger of obfuscating things too much and being as disorganized as the rest of the shooting how-to out there. Unlike most of them, we are also doing this free - so it might get a fair amount of readership. I don't want to scare off the noobs or fry their brains...

Yes, I cast bullets for every kind of gun. They are absolutely the best for handguns IMO, and I accept a bit of reduced performance (energy and accuracy) in (most) rifles...that's going to be its own thread(s), along with a couple special tools I made for that - for example, a quick release collet for my lathe to turn the bases perfectly flat and uniform in length easily after casting...and on and on - that kinda stuff should get its own threads or this one will become too cluttered to be useful for people just starting out.

I guess I'm lucky myself - I do have an RCBS carbide die for .30 carbine (and a neigbor who owns two of those guns! They are a ton of fun!), that I inherited. As the gun guy in the neighborhood, when someone dies who had a bunch of loading stuff, the survivors often just give it to me. Another advanced topic - how to handle decades-old reloading supplies...which aren't going to work just like new stuff you just bought.

I also start with virgin brass for competition, and most often, it's Winchester. And I brutally select only the best 100 or so out of a batch of 500 to begin with...it gets pretty complex, which is why it's gonna get its own batch of threads on this sub-forum. However, most beginners won't go to that level, so...We'll get there, but not on this thread. Maybe one called something like "advanced brass prep and selection"? We then link to it out of the noob thread, so people can follow their nose to where they want to be easily, but ignore it otherwise.

Part of what prompted this is that the crew from Motherboard magazine is coming to look at the fusor and the gun stuff (and do articles on both), and we are going to teach them the CCW course, using our guns and ammo, since they are from NYC and otherwise have no access to this kind of thing - they are gung-ho to do it, so we have a chance to make some conversions in the media here. We feel that educating the MSM a little more, and taking away the "fear of the unknown" might be a good thing to be involved with doing - while dispelling the fakery of hollywood (having a gun doesn't make you bullet proof, or Gehnghis Khan, nor can you take a snap shot at a perp 3" from a hostage from 10 or 20 paces, for example, and expect success) and other misunderstandings the media tends to have and promote. I figured, since I have to make a big batch of ammo for that, why not do it up right and document it? Now that the ball is rolling, I have a vision for what I want here, explained above - I'd appreciate your contributions to it too, and plan to make that easy - with the right structure, that is. ;) Go ahead and start some threads on your techniques - and we'll link to them from this one.

Looking at those vids myself - gosh, I had no idea I was becoming so bald all the way back there. No wonder it's so easy to get my hair in a ponytail now...not much of it! I'm going to get a camerman so they look less unflattering and we have better detail and shot framing than I can get walking around a tripod, as well. And add some stills for the stuff that needs real detail to understand - the movie camera has its limits there.
Posting as just me, not as the forum owner. Everything I say is "in my opinion" and YMMV -- which should go for everyone without saying.
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Re: Reloading series

Postby Doug Coulter » Fri Jul 05, 2013 8:34 pm

The next step, at least with brass where there is the least doubt of "where it's been" is to sort it by headstamp, and inspect it. This will generally result in a few culls for the trashcan or recycle bin, but you probably won't catch them all, since you're looking most at the head of the case here. Things to look for are - brass imprinted heavily with the bolt face features - probably shot with too hot a load, a cratered primer, big nicks on the extractor groove (another indication it was too hot and then was too hard to pull out of the gun), and general corrosion - if the tumbling didn't make it like-new - you can't know how deep that corrosion is, and should probably ditch the stuff. Your life is worth it. I do this less for brass I've shot on my own range, for obvious reasons - I know where it came from and where its been. But here, I'm using a large batch donated by a friend, and even though he's a good friend, and I trust him - well, "trust but verify" is a good policy, and no one is offended.
http://youtu.be/w6Vp0eYE-oA


During this process, I did get a few to cull, and here is a picture of those - I actually found a few more baddies in further processing as well.
Culls.JPG
A few culled shells.

I hope you can guess most of the reasons I culled these, but these don't show every reason you'd cull out a shell, not hardly. Dents in the body - big ones - cull - they'll have reduced capacity. If you're really desparate to save those, fire form them with a light load, and put them back into the process, but I don't. Super bent in any way - after you form them they might look alright, but they will have been work-hardened and may split on the next firing - ditch them. Corrosion that tumbling didn't remove and that doesn't scrape off easy with a fingernail - ditch. Now the one on its side vertical had a split neck - obvious ditch. The one laying horizontally - look closely near the case head. See that sharp step up in size? It's an indication this brass is on its last legs and getting thin there - or fired with a hot load in an oversize chamber - that's getting risky - ditch it. I found a few more heavily dented or corroded ones later in the process. Use every time you touch brass to look for issues with it, and act accordingly, or don't blame me for your accidents. This is really the main safety issue with reloading - don't use bad parts! Simple as it sounds...it bears repeating over and over. The trashcan is a reloaders best friend.
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Re: Reloading series

Postby Doug Coulter » Fri Jul 05, 2013 8:43 pm

ONce you've got a batch sorted - and by the way, if the manufacturer was nice enough to put other data on the case head, like Lake City does for dates - sort by that too, you're ready to lube it up for sizing. Here's how I do it. I happen to like Dillon's case lube, and yes, I know I'm beginning to sound like an advert for them (they do deserve it, their stuff is top rate, and so are they when it comes to service), but it really worlks better than all others I've yet tried. I've not yet tried Lee's lube, though I have some. I have tried RCBS, the kind you put on a pad and roll cases over - ugh. I actually like Superior Sizing Die Wax for low volume runs sometimes, but you have to apply it manually - I use it for making wildcats (another whole subject) or when I'm just using a few brass to work up a new load recipe, but since this is volume plinking loading we're doing right now - the Dillon stuff wins. Again, we use the plastic trays left over from groceries (in this case, hamburger from wall mart) and any other handly little containers - the old trays for MREs are nice for this work too. So, here's what it looks like lubing a big batch of cases:
http://youtu.be/t0uJ-796jhk


Pro tip - don't overdo the lube, you don't need very much. You have to remove it later...you could get by with only 1 case in 4-5 lubed, as the die retains some, but that's hard to pace for, so I just do them all.
I note, a few respected high power riflemen, rifle builders, reloaders, and authors remove the lube by just tying it up in a pillowcase and putting it in the washing machine. Haven't tried this myself, but it should work great. That is, if domestic concerns don't apply...
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Re: Reloading series

Postby Doug Coulter » Fri Jul 05, 2013 8:54 pm

Finally we're getting to the real business - though what's gone before is important, this is getting to the part most people think is 'mysterious". It's not rocket surgery. All we do is run the cases through a sizing die, in this case, one that is meant to resize the full length of the case. After having bought literally every single resizing die offered on the market, I can say with confidence that the one from Dillon is the very best - and not the most expensive either. It produces by far the most uniform size and straightness. After spending all that money on 6-7 other brands and types - it was a revelation to actually measure the results and find this out. Hopefully, I can save you that hassle and expense by telling you now what works best, skip the rest. Note, for Dillon and most other full-length resize dies, you set them up so the shellholder in the press just contacts the base of the die when the ram is fully "up". In all cases, follow the manufacturers instructions on this. Tricks like solar_dave mentioned above are useful, but not for beginners, or for people loading ammo that has to fit any rifle, rather than just one particular one. We'll save the advanced stuff for another thread or few.
http://youtu.be/hYGomv73koY


You don't need (or maybe even want) a progressive press for this part if you're the least bit picky. I like to clean my primer pockets out, and remove the lube before the other steps - a single stage press will do fine for this part of the job (and all parts if you just want one press). I use an RCBS rock-chucker for a single stage when resizing - since it's about the stronges thing out there, and resizing is the thing that takes the most strength. While Lee's real cheap press will do, after you've resized a few hundred, you really like the higher scale stuff a lot better. For example, my Dillon RL-550b shown here has the optional bullet tray (we'll get to that) and roller handle instead of that ignorant ball everyone else uses. Do this a few hours and the price of that rather expensive handle looks cheap - especially with the larger calibers where it takes real force to re size them.

Note, I do go full progressive for handgun ammo, more often than not - for straight cases you don't need lube with carbide dies at all - and theres usually not enough primer residue to justify the extra step of cleaning out the pocket. They tend to shoot better than I can hold anyway, so the extreme stuff I do for long range rifle competition just isn't worth the time for handguns - for me.

See that big scarred hole in the side of my face in this video? Now you know why I'm a safety cheeleader. It was in part, the result of not ditching a bad batch of Winchester brass for 6.5mm (there were other contributing factors, story later). Lets just say - it's not fun to have a rifle explode and toss a bolt through your head, OK? I didn't elect to have plastic surgery after - I'm not insured for such things - and very unimpressed with the hospital services around here, and it's a reminder that you should really pay attention to this. And yes, I will tell the story later, in it's own thread since it might save someone from the same fate, even though it makes me look pretty stupid (which in this case, was the case).
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Re: Reloading series

Postby Doug Coulter » Sat Jul 06, 2013 11:52 am

The next step here is to clean the primer pockets. I want this ammo as reliable and safe as I can make it, since it's going to be shot by noob journalists on camera, for one thing, and out of several different guns. While not strictly required, for either safety or any but hyper-accuracy, I just do this, it's simple and worth doing. Primers have three little legs that seat against the bottom of the pocket and a precise amount of crush is required there to get uniform primer behavior. If there's junk in there - no way the next primer will be seated at the same place the last one was - all 3 legs won't be set the same, leading to inaccuracy and worst case a misfire. So we do this here on all rifle rounds.
To do this, I made a special tool - makes it easy and quick. The tool is just a piece of 1/4" brass rod turned down to .170" (about the size of a small rifle primer) and ground with a screwdriver tip to spin in the pocket. You don't have to use a drill or drill press - this stuff is crusty, brittle, and comes right out easily even if you just hand hold the tool. But doing a few hundred rounds, heck, I use the drill. There are other tools sold for this, but this is so simple to make, why? You could also file down a small normal screwdriver, but you want to be careful then to not scrape brass off the bottom of the primer pocket. Sadly, this is out of focus, but it gives you the idea - nothing fancy here.
CleaningTool.JPG
Blurry but this is simple, maybe I'll get a better pic later


Here's what the process looks like in action - I find it good to learn from how someone good at it "holds their mouth" - this communicates about how hard to push, how long to spin and so forth better than mere words.
http://youtu.be/Feu372JP2R8


Next up, something that is crucial to safety...neck length.
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