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Reloading - Looking After The Brass Cartridge Case

Reloading - Looking After The Brass Cartridge Case

By Matthew Cameron

The brass cartridge case is manufactured on several continents with varying degrees of quality control. When purchasing brass for your particular rifle needs, be aware that quality varies, even between calibres of the same make.

reloading brass
Various mouth defects in new brass cases.

Of all the items associated with shooting and its various disciplines the brass cartridge case is, in my opinion, the item least thought of. Ask any shooter about his new rifle or telescopic sight and he will wax lyrical. Ask him how he looks after his brass and you will be met with a blank stare. With about 50,000 lbs. plus of force per square inch close to your face when you pull the trigger, you should treat your brass with some respect. The quality control that you exercise when reloading will reflect on your rifle’s accuracy and cartridge case life. What follows is one opinion on quality control. You may not agree.

reloading brass
Various case defects. Last is incipient head separation.

We should start at the beginning; i.e. new brass cartridge cases. My personal preference is to buy in bulk lots of 100 cases, however this may not suit individual requirements. Perhaps it is preferable to buy more rather than less. Whilst of high quality they are not yet perfect and need attention before you start to load them. In this day and age, it is almost impossible to purchase poor quality components that are used in reloading. Stick with the recognized brands and you cannot go wrong.

reloading brass
Various mouth defects in new brass cases.

If you inspect the case mouths you will invariably find some that are out of round. As a first item, I lubricate all cases and run them through the normal sizing die. When you have finished this, you now have a base line to work from. You should also wish to check the overall length. They should all be the same. However, in my experience you will have to trim them to achieve this. Rule Number 1 is never assume anything.

The next item on the agenda is primer pockets. I have never found a perfectly flat one in new brass; there is always a radius between the bottom of the pocket and the side wall.

reloading brass
This tool cleans up primer pockets-outside.

The small tool that is usually called a primer pocket uniformer will remove the high spots in the pocket and make a flat bed to insert the primer on. This tool is also useful after the cartridge has been fired to remove some primer residue. It is, in my opinion, important to keep primer pockets in pristine condition to ensure perfect ignition every time you pull the trigger. The design of this small tool limits the depth of the primer pocket to the design specifications.

reloading brass
This tool cleans up primer pockets-inside.

The next step is to use a small chamfering tool to remove all the imperfections around the case mouth both inside and out. The inside chamfer starts the bullet into the case mouth, of particular importance when using flat base bullets.

For normal hunting cartridges this is about as far as I go to prepare brass, from this point on, it is only necessary to keep the cases and primer pockets clean. It is very important to check the overall length of the case about every 4 or 5 firings depending on calibre.

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