Five Steps for Preparing New Brass

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These are brand-new high-dollar Lapua cases, which the author points out are a tad amount deformed about the case mouths. Most new cases will show this sort of irregularity. Just run them through your sizing die. It’s not so much establishing the neck size (although that’s wise also), but just rounding them out to accept a bullet. Also, lube new cases just like normal; even though they’re smaller than they will be after the first firing, they’re not that small.
These are brand-new high-dollar Lapua cases, which the author points out are a tad amount deformed about the case mouths. Most new cases will show this sort of irregularity. Just run them through your sizing die. It’s not so much establishing the neck size (although that’s wise also), but just rounding them out to accept a bullet. Also, lube new cases just like normal; even though they’re smaller than they will be after the first firing, they’re not that small.

For the handloader, it’s a great feeling to pop the flaps open on a new box of cases. New, shiny cases are a treat. However, new cases are not ready to load out of the box, and a look over them shows why — most will have noticeably dinged and dented case mouths. Here are a few tips on getting new brass ready to load:

Check Them All for Flash Holes

An easy flaw to watch for is a case without a flash hole. This is rare indeed, but I’ve seen one, and a few of my high-volume pistol-shooting friends have encountered more. Flash holes are almost always punched, but tooling isn’t perfect, or it breaks and goes unnoticed. I actually look at all of them just to get it off my mind.

Don’t Seat a Bullet to Size Case Necks

At the least run all the cases through a die that will size the outside and inside of the case necks. I just use my normal-duty sizing die. That way, I’ve also set case-neck dimensions to what I decided on; that means performance results consistent to my later loadings on these cases. There is not, or sure should not be, any worry about setting the case shoulder back to a shorter dimension than the new case has, if (and only if) the sizing die was adjusted in accordance with the concepts and process I outlined in the past articles.

Chamfer the Inside of the Case Mouth

After sizing, the next required step is to put a chamfer on the inside of the case mouth. The outside won’t need chamfering, unless you’ve decided to trim the cases.

I trim all my new cases, even though it’s not really necessary. For me, it’s more about squaring the case mouth than about shortening length. They’ll be plenty short enough. Just as I use the sizing die, I trim to the usual setting on my case trimmer that I have for used cases.

By the way, this is a simple way to set trim-to length on a case trimmer: Adjust the cutter head inward until it just touches the case mouth all the way around. That will be suitable from there on. Trimming, however, is purely optional.

Now the cases are ready to load. But there’s more you can do to get top results.

Do Any Other Case-Prep Steps

Any additional case prep steps are best done right now when new brass is at its softest. Especially if you want to outside-turn case necks, new brass is notably easier to work with. The exception is that I wait until after the first firing to do any primer-pocket uniforming. New primer pockets are snug.

Speaking of that first firing… This is important. “Fire-forming” is a term usually associated with describing changing a cartridge from its parent or original state into another state, which is a non-standard cartridge, when it’s first-fired in the non-standard chamber. Like making an Ackley-Improved version of a standard cartridge, or converting a .250 Savage into a 6XC. In other words, the firing itself expands and reforms the case to the shape of the new chamber. But! All cases are fire-formed to the chamber they’re fired in. That’s a lot of what I’ve been addressing in the past few articles.

Segregate Special Brass

I segregate my brass for my tournament rounds, and I do that when it’s new. Criteria and means are another article, but the reason I mention that now is because I select my “600-yard” cases, “300-yard,” and “200-yard” cases at the beginning, looking for the best, better, and good cases, respectively, for the three distances.

I need to know which are which before I make the initial loading because brass has a memory. More technically, it’s a “shape-memory effect,” a property that is shared by some other alloys also. It expands and contracts in a consistent pattern during each use.

Do not first-fire cases using a lighter (less pressure) load unless you intend to continue to use that load. Fire-forming with a lighter load and then using a nearer-to-max load in that same case will result in premature failures in that case. It doesn’t seem to matter much going the other direction, but, for instance, I would never charge up my 600-yard load in a case formed using my 200-yard load; there are significant pressure differences in those two.

And don’t forget to get dimensional checks and records on your new cases!

About the only (reasonably affordable) new brass that I’ve used that doesn’t need any pre-firing help is Nosler Competition Brass, but I still size it to ensure I’m running the same neck dimensions, and ostensibly bullet retention levels as I will on subsequent uses. There’s processed and prepped once-fired out there available through many outlets, but I still suggest sizing it.
About the only (reasonably affordable) new brass that I’ve used that doesn’t need any pre-firing help is Nosler Competition Brass, but I still size it to ensure I’m running the same neck dimensions, and ostensibly bullet retention levels as I will on subsequent uses. There’s processed and prepped once-fired out there available through many outlets, but I still suggest sizing it.

 

 

 

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25 thoughts on “Five Steps for Preparing New Brass”

  1. Very good article for beginners like me. I just got my first new 308 brass and planned to send it through my sizing die for good measure. I also planned to make sure I trim all cases before loading. I’ll make sure to check the flash hole!
    Any information on applying a crimp to bullets WITHOUT cannelure?
    This is for a Ruger scout 308 bolt gun.
    Thank you for your time.

    1. Just make sure that your you use a die that taper crimps the the brass to the bullet. You do not want to deform the sides of the bullet but you can make it tight enough that the bullet will never move. Leaving it too loose is dangerous as the bullet can move back into the brass and change pressures or at least change the jump to the barrels lands and trash accuracy.

    2. I have been reloading for over 40 years, and have NEVER (yes, I did say, “NEVER”) crimped a rifle-cartridge bullet. I shoot HPR competitions (88 rounds per match, 5-10 matches a year), varmint shoot (600 -1,000) rounds per year), and hunt big game. The neck compression on a rifle cartridge securely holds the bullet.

      There are exceptions, but the cartridges I shoot use neck compression only. I shoot the 7.62 x 51 (.308 Winchester) in both bolt and semi-auto. Again, no crimp.

      Save your time (set-up), money (die) & brass (over-working the case mouths, and forego the crimping.

      1. The Lee collet dies can be crimp or pressure. If there is a cannalure and if the cannalure can be used after you determine where the rifles lands are and back off what you want, a crimp is good. On any bullet without a cannalure never ever crimp.

      2. A very light taper crimp will sometimes helps the bullet be straighter in the case while increasing the pressure a little and making the bullets shoot more consistent in some instances. I have used a chronograph and shot crimped and noncrimped cases finding this to be the case especially when one is not using competition seating dies. I use them when I can but still don’t have competition dies for all my calibers as yet.

      3. I agree, one of the sweetest rifles I ever bought, the owner got rid of because it wouldn’t shoot. I bought it, I found this brass ring stuck in the chamber, a ring that no doubt was the remains of a cannelure crimp that had broken off a case. Everything he chambered got crimped. Model 11 Savage heavy barrel 308. Tack driver.

    3. I agree with the other posters: I really can’t recommend crimping, taper or conventional, if accuracy is important, and it always is (no matter what you’re shooting). Pistols, yes, because taper crimping mostly irons down the “bell” necessary to get the bullets seated.

      Instead, make a check of the difference between loaded case neck outside diameter against sized case neck outside diameter. For a magazine-fed rifle, make that number be 0.003 difference, and 0.004 is plenty “safe” for security of the bullet. If you don’t use neck bushings to control the amount of sizing, it’s pretty straightforward to turn down the expander or sizing button on the sizing die stem if you want to increase the amount of constriction or tension on the bullet. I have seen combinations of cases and dies that did not produce enough sized/loaded difference to retain a bullet against inertia-induced movement. A case with relatively thin neck walls, for instance, won’t size down as much as one with thicker walls.

      However, any more than 0.004 or 0.005 difference in sized i.d. and loaded i.d. really only means the bullet is sizing the case neck; retention isn’t really increasing. As a matter of fact, too much difference might even create additional shoulder setback because of the extra pressure to seat a bullet into a neck that’s too small.

    4. I full length re-size it.
      Cut to overall length (all of them and keep them in “lots”)
      Chamfer the O.D. and the I.D. of the case mouth
      Chamber the flash hole on the OUTSIDE and the Inside.

  2. Although I’ve reloaded for 35 years you always learn. Your articles are great teaching for any hand loader. Thanks for the tips and some things I’ve never thought about. I’ve read and re read your book Handloading For Competition and found that very informative also.

  3. I agree with George. There is always more to learn. Thanks for the helpful information on the shape memory effect.

  4. Great info ,I enjoyed the read and I’ll be aware of the new brass and separate some of my brass on certain loads.

  5. I also follow the steps you list for new cases buts add one more. I deburr the inside of the flash hole.. You are a fine learning aid even for us 65 plus loaders.

    1. I agree, deburring the flash holes is an easy and effective step in producing accurate ammunition. Factory cases have the flash hole punched which leaves a burr on the inside of most cases, this burr varies from slight to heavy. Deburring the flash hole allows the primer to produce consistent ignition. Unlike other case prep, it’s a step you only have to do one time.

  6. I concur with Mr. Heath. I too deburr the flash holes. Interesting that you mentioned the rare absence of a flashhole. I haven’t encountered that but, I did once find a brass that had a figure eight shaped flashhole. It was obviously double punched. Great articles. I look forward to them. Thanks for sharing the knowledge. I appreciate it.

  7. I always deburr inside and outside case mouths plus size the primer pocket and deburr the inside if it is going be shot through a scoped rifle. I don’t bother with the primer pocket or hole if it’s going through an AR-15 as they eat too much and eat too fast. To not run a new case through a sizing die is foolish if accuracy is your goal.

  8. Almost ALL the new brass I get from Maj. manufacturers needs help at the start. It just aint like it used to be. They should all be f. l. sized, trimmed, chamfered, have the flash hole debris trimmed and removed and then weighed. You would not believe how much difference there will be in weight between cases! You will be shocked at the difference this will make in the accuracy department. Rifle cases, in particular, should also be separated as to manufacturer, weight and lot if possible but this is not as needed so much for most pistol applications.

  9. I have only been reloading for 1.5 yrs and i always am interested in learning something new in reloading. I have alot to learn and any tips i can pick up i am interested in . The way i figure it is that if i do not learn something new every day ,i am no longer on this earth any more,again thanks,Bill

  10. I agree that Mr. Zediker’s experience & advice is top-notch for all types of precision shooting. A couple things that he has yet to mention (I think he wrote the first one in an earlier book) is 1) deburring the flash-hole on the inside of the case, and 2) the headspacing also gives a tighter-tolerance case-to-chamber fit on tapered cases.

    1) I read or was told somewhere (Glen Zediker?) that deburring the flash-hole on the inside of the case is one of the best ways to improve the cases’ accuracy – especially for small-capacity cases like the .223/5.56. I deburr my flash-holes after sizing & trimming to get a uniform chamfer on the flash-holes. This is a one-time operation that ensures uniform flame distribution from the primer from case to case.

    2) Headspacing the case so that the case is a bit longer(less headspace) also positions the entire length of the case body closer to the walls of the chamber – think of a cone inside of a cone. This gives better alignment and less yaw & pitch , or “wiggle” room = better precision. All the headspacing parameters that Mr. Zediker details in his writings still apply, but the dimensional physics also apply. Size your cases for absolute safety, then reliable operation, then best accuracy.

    Finally, I like Mr. Zediker’s practice of separating his brass for different types of shooting. In the past, I used the same brass for 200, 300 & 600. I now use my best (Lapua) brass for 600. I may going to rethink this, but did earn Master Classification with my old method, but there is still High Master to achieve!

    I do know that single-loaded cases eject much cleaner than rapid-fire cases shot out of my AR-based Spacegun Match Rifle.

  11. Corrections:

    . . . alignment, and less yaw & pitch = less “wiggle” room = better precision.

    I may have to rethink this, but . . .

  12. Been reloading for 38 years, I’m only 63, I do the steps you outlined yet some day I may buy new brass but not yet…

  13. I also use a flash hole deburrer on new cases but especially on military cases I make sure to use a primer pocket cutter that bevels the mouth of the primer pocket as I have found that when seating the primer in the first stage match/SB die station that without this step the primers end up slightly flattened instead of holding their cupped profile. It is especially true with Lake City match brass. This affects the position of the anvil and affects accuracy.

  14. Flash hole deburring… Absolutely! I didn’t mention it specifically because that’s honestly part of the plan for another article. It is easy and it only needs done once. I’ve found that it makes a noticeable difference on target especially in cartridges where we’re using a “packed” case, meaning full to the brim with propellant.

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