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Reloading Berger Bullets


To neck size or full length size???

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Unread 02-10-2011, 09:14 AM
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Location: Billings, MT
Posts: 332
Re: To neck size or full length size???

I've only been visiting this site for a few months. A few years ago I started reloading for a .300 WinMag, I decided to use NS die to attempt to get some longevity out of the belted brass. Seems to be working, No head separations yet. With a few other benefits, less case trimming, I probably can't shoot well enough to notice real accuracy benefits. I got my loads into a cloverleaf at 200yds. I was pleased.

I have been real happy on this site. There are not very many forum rambos on here.

As far as web knowledge experts, what ever, do your own research/testing.

I'm a small arms repair tech. Have been for a while. I'm not a gunsmith by trade, but by education. I'm knowledgable, but not an expert. I've been reloading for 21 years, but not for precision, yet. Thanks to many of you, I'm still learning tons, while I'm away from my armory and can't get to my bench or my own references.

So what makes BoomTube the web expert?
There are only two seasons: Hunting season, and Getting Ready for Hunting season. -DAD
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Unread 02-10-2011, 10:50 AM
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Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Mountians of SW NC, near Asheville
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Re: To neck size or full length size???

"So what makes BoomTube the web expert? "

Ah, my friend, if only it were so. It's too cold to go out this morning so I have time to squander.

There are books FULL of stuff I don't know nor have even thought of. But the question here, NS vs. FLS isn't a complex one nor is it really unknown, on or off the web.

Neck sizing was initially done by Bench shooters with custom chambers and using selected, highly processed cases, often in chambers so tight the necks had to be turned thinner to even chamber. Many of their loads were sufficently low powered the cases rarely needed the shoulders set back from one firing to the next. THEY used neck sizing to advantage.

Of course when the rest of us heard about the wonders of neck sizing we just had to try it, if it was doing great things for BR guys it MUST be "better" for us too, right? Turns out that, like anything else in accuracy loading, it was/is/may be "better" for some guys but even when it is better the difference is so slight that, for HUNTERS, it's meaningless. BR competitions are won with top groups in the 1s and, at two hundered yards, 2s. For them, obtaining an average improvenment of 20 thou is tremendous. But for hunters, even varminters, surely you would agree that reducing the potential radius of error by some 10 thou will never be seen.

Fact is, a lot of experimentation has been done by a lot of highly competitent people in the years since BR shooting began. To surprise of many, neck sizing has proven to be so variable that it's no longer an article of faith even to them. It's been well documented - and reported - by both competitors AND bullet makers that FLS cases give them the best accuracy so it's not even a contest.

For those of us using factory rifles the potential is so small it just doesn't makie a difference from what we can do if we get everything right when we FLS. Testing quickly proves that accuracy is far less predictible than just shoulving a case into a neck die and saying we are now "precision" handloaders!

Hunting ammo, which is what this discussion has been about, needs to feed smoothly every time and sometimes it's nice to be able to share at camp. Sure, necked ammo usually feeds fine but not always, especially if a small bit of trash - leaf, etc, - gets into a chamber. When there is no practical benefit to neck sizing and there are some downsides, perhaps it's better not to do it?

The issue of case life is far more involved than simply the die we do our sizing in. To put it simply, no part of a case gets worked as much as the neck. The necks usually split first so, zilch gain for neck sizing!

One of the accuracy limits for any cases is the hardness of the necks and that gets worse as we cycle them. Best accuracy (usually) comes from new or nearly new cases and degrades as the necks work harden. Annealing can "fix" it but few of us are so good at annealing that we can restore all necks in the same batch to the same hardness so we end up with necks of varying hardness, not good for finest accuracy but plenty good for hunting ammo.

There are at least two ways we can filter BS. One is to discard things that "work for me"; it may be true but what works for me may very well not work for 90% of the rest of the world. The other is "most people do it this way" and "everybody knows it's best"; okay, so it must be right? I ask, how many people have to agree to an incorrect idea to make it correct? Seems most people go for simplistic answers without serious questioning alternate possibilites of doing thing better. (I cite that most voters went for Obama but I still don't agree they were right.)

I've been loading since '65. I'm a techical person, made my living building and maintaining precision electronic test/measurment equipment in the space and defense industries. I do examine a lot of reloading ideas and carefully test them on my personal range. I take nothing anyone says, nor even what I THINK, as true until I've tested it and on a statistically significant number of firearms and loads to be meaningful.

Im old enough and comfortable enough in my skin that I don't hang a touchy ego on my sleeve, I don't care a bit when others disagree with me. I just present my infomation to those with questions that interest me. If the poster I'm responding to wants to accept it okay, if he doesn't, still okay. But I REALLY don't care what others who come into the discussion think of what I say!

In the interest of learning I sometimes make arguments to pursue ideas but it's not personal. I do find it amusing that some experts seem to feel they must "win" arguments with other anonymous posters on the web!

So, again, I sure don't know it all and don't try to present myself as an expert but I know what I know. For sure. YMMV.
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Unread 02-10-2011, 11:23 AM
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Location: Sedalia, MO
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Re: To neck size or full length size???

As Steve and others have said, full length size and don't look back. He also mentioned "properly set up dies" and that's where a bump gage comes in. Bump gages are your friend.

People neck size, even for hunting ammo, and never have any problems at all. Until they do. When they do, I'll guarantee that it'll be far from extra ammo, will cause a problem with the rifle that may require a gunsmith to sort out, and will happen right when you've just seen the biggest trophy animal ever.

Murphy has a warped sense of humor, and looks specifically for people who neck size.
Kevin Thomas
Lapua USA
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Unread 02-10-2011, 01:59 PM
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Location: The rifle range, or archery range or behind the computer in Alaska
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Re: To neck size or full length size???

Boy this thread went to he!! fast.

1st, I dont believe that David Tubbs is the end all be all. A great shooter yes and his record speaks for itself. You still cant trust a man who has sponsors. 2nd, you have to concider that he recieves countless peices of brass from his sponsors. What does brass life mean to him? Nothing. A few FL re-sizes and he could toss them. If that many. 3rd, bumping the shoulder back .003 again and again WILL drastically shorten case life.

That said, whether or not case life is affected by FL sizing is going to be determined by more than one factor. How tight the chamber is or is not and how well the FL die was set up. Even then, case life is shortened. I challenge any body on this site to take a fire formed case, measure the shoulder from the base and run it up their FL die most of the way but not all the way. Remove it and re measure. You will find that the shoulder is further from the base than it was before it went in. The case will stretch whether you want it to or not. Once it gets rammed all the way back into the 'set up properly die' the shoulder gets bumped back to where it started, maybe a hair back. So we think that we are only setting the shoulder back a wee bit but we are first stretching the case. This is why cases separate at the case head. The more head space a rifle has, the worse the condition. The closer you can get the chamber dimentions to the FL die dimensions, the less of a problem it will be. Unfortunately for a hunting rifle this is not a prefered senario.

As far as accuracy, most (myself included) would agree that IF there is any benefit from one to the other, it is very minimal, so much so that it isnt even a concideration.

Case life is another story. If you think there is no more case life when NS only versus FL sizing, you are only fooling yourself. Has anybody here on this site ever seen a case/head separation on brass that has only ever been neck sized only that has been fired in a chamber with proper headspace? I would be shocked if anyone reputable here has. As far as necks becoming work hardend, it is an issue. Fortunately we have a procces known as annealing. The sloppier the neck area of a chamber is and the smaller you make your necks during resizing the more often you may have to anneal. Ideally, the neck area of a chamber will be such that the neck wont expand more than neccessary and will spring back a bit. This will allow the neck to be sized less and offer more firings between annealings. Some BR guys anneal after each firing. Most longrange guys dont feel they need to anneal after more than 3-5 firings.

My opinion is that one of the best happy mediums is to neck size during the off season for case life and use once fired FL sized brass for hunting.

For the record, I prefer FL sizing in general. I do find myself however neck sizing most of the time during the off season to save coin. I shoot alot and replacing brass is not cheap and prepping brass to the standards that I require is VERY time consuming. Annealing takes time too, but FAR LESS time than prepping 100 peices of brass and only costs me the price of a disposable propane bottle once every couple of years. If I only shot a couple hundred rounds a year things would be different. When shots run into the thousands, brass life for me is a major concideration.

Long range shooting is a process that ends with a result. Once you start to focus on the result (how bad your last shot was, how big the group is going to be, what your buck will score, what your match score is, what place you are in...) then you loose the capacity to focus on the process.

Last edited by Michael Eichele; 02-10-2011 at 02:17 PM.
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Unread 02-10-2011, 05:28 PM
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Re: To neck size or full length size???

If you wanna try it, go for it!

I am with Michael on this one. Been using a combination of both for about 20 years now. Thousands and thousands of rounds and on at least 5 different rifles.

Nothing is written in stone, and there isn't a do all everytime/every rifle rule.

For me, the benefits of NS is mimimal case working/stretching, and easier/faster reload process (don't need to lube cases, size, and then remove the lube). Lower run out/concentricity and slightly better accuracy is another benefit.

Hell, I've even NS on semi-auto AR-15's without any problems for a fireing or two. That's where the FL sizing comes in..........when the cases start to get a little tight, I'll FL size and trim (usually about every 3rd fireing). Then it's back to NS. When I do FL size, it's only enough to chamber the case without much resistance. I have seen case head separation, but only when overly sizing the brass in a FL die.

I am sure some have had issues with NS and chambering a loaded round afterwards, but I've always tried the cases in the gun before I load the bullet just to make sure it's not too tight. 10 randomly picked cases out of 50 gives me a good idea if I need to FL size or not.

You can also use a variety of case measurement tools (I do) to set up the FL die properly. We really only want to set back the shoulder a couple thou and squeeze down the shoulder/body dimension just a hair. The base of the case (web) should only be squeezed down just slightly too. Anything more than about 2 thousands is more than necessary on any of these spots, so long as the ammo will be re-used in the same gun.

Good Shootin
Aim small = Miss small

Last edited by SBruce; 02-10-2011 at 05:31 PM.
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Unread 02-11-2011, 07:27 PM
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Location: Coldwater michigan
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Re: To neck size or full length size???

Well, it looks as if I'm planning on going with fls and then maybe pick up a ns. So when I am needing to give me more space in the chamber switch to the fls. Have not loaded yet, but am getting ready to complete my epuipment set up. I guess to be prepared; go with fls and grab an extra ns die.
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Unread 02-11-2011, 08:06 PM
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Re: To neck size or full length size???

Originally Posted by meatyrem View Post
Well, it looks as if I'm planning on going with fls and then maybe pick up a ns. So when I am needing to give me more space in the chamber switch to the fls. Have not loaded yet, but am getting ready to complete my epuipment set up. I guess to be prepared; go with fls and grab an extra ns die.
Sounds like you're on the right track.

NS die isn't expensive. But you'll probably find that FL sizing will be necessary every once in a while. On average, it's been about every 3rd firing for me. I've always seen the case lengthen after FL sizing, so be sure to get a trimmer and chamfer/deburr tool too.

RCBS Precision Mic, Good dial calipers and micrometer are nice to have too. If There isn't a Precision Mic for the cartridge you're loading, bump gauges can be used. These tools will help you set up the FL die for minimum brass damage.
Aim small = Miss small

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