Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The case of many calibers : or : Why you should give all your range brass to me!

Brass, In this day brass is rising more and more in price. Formed brass, as in what we shooters use and pick up at the range is no exception. So to this I'll admit that I am a brass rat.....and damn proud of it! I go to the local range and scrounge every bit of brass I can lay my hands on...but its not to turn it into the recyclers but to recycle it myself. My father taught me the importance of picking up brass before and after a session at the range. I even pick up Berdan primed cases WHY? because they have infinite uses in the many tinkerings I do. Practicing/testing case forming methods in dies, annealing experiments and for the possible use as jackets for bullets down the road. One case (pun intended) is the 7.62x25 which is a hot loaded brother to the 7.63x25 (30 Mauser). I have 100's of these cases I've picked up at the range for several years and continue to do so. I didn't know why until just a few weeks ago when I read on a idea to convert them to boxer primed brass for 30 Mauser (a lathe comes in handy for this project). The big problem is getting that primer out of the case. A simple lathe project is making a hydraulic piston you insert into the mouth of the case after filling it part way with water. The water can not be compressed and it blows the berdan primer out. Another operation you can do with this piston is "water forming" the case by inserting it into a sizer die and whacking the piston with a mallet the same way you would to decap it. However instead of having a void under where the primer would pop out the spent primer would seal up the case and cause the case to fill to the die it has been placed in. I have lots of brass cases for which I don't even have a gun for yet 50BMG, S&W 500 (I don't officially own one of these yet), 375 H&H, 378 Weatherby, 38spl, 9mm, 270 Winchester, 243 Winchester, 30-30, 357 sig, 22-250 and the list just goes on and on. Its a good idea for any serious reloader to stock up on all sorts of brass "just in case" they obtain a firearm in that caliber. Or need to load some ammo for a friend.

I know the average shooter in where a box of 50 rounds will last them a year might not reload and that is understandable. To some reloading is a mysterious event that takes place in dark basements and backyard shops. Modifying brass for the rifles in your collection to some is even more mysterious. "Why take the time to make brass when you can get 20 pcs for $X" I've heard numerous times. And I've often wondered why I alter brass from one caliber to another however I take a huge amount of joy in learning along the way while making brass for rifles I have no brass on hand for. A close friend who recently purchased a .308 Remington 700 Sniper rifle wanted me to make up some reloads for him. I have .308 Winchester dies on hand here at my place in Columbus but no unprimed brass (I have 20 or so primed cases all from pull down ammo). I went through my "Rifle brass range pickup" bin that sits near my reloading bench and pulled 50 pcs of 30/06 brass that had badly deformed necks from actions closing on them etc. I trued them up with a pair of pliers as best I could and ran them through my .308 die without the decapper. This is an important step as you will have to pull the decapper, neck expander through that long tube you are making out of all the excess material the neck is being formed from ( you NEED the neck expander if you are necking brass UP! as you will see in the pictures bellow). I try not to anneal before I do this kind of major reforming via dies as the shoulder tends to fold and collapse on itself. If you are simply expanding the neck out on a case put the case into a pan of water so as only the neck is sticking above it and anneal the neck. If you anneal the shoulder and you attempt to expand or shrink the neck diameter the downward force on the now softer shoulder most likely buckle it and fold it into itself (if you annealed correctly). I start with the die out half way ( so as to work in the rockchucker's "power zone") and take it down in steps running the case up backing it out and turning the die perhaps 1/3 of a turn or so, taking the time to remove the case every three or so strokes to re-spread the lube so as not to create any dimples from hydraulic pressure caused by excessive lube in that one area. This also helps if you are doing major reforming so as the shell holder does not start to bend the rim and deform the base from constantly pushing and pulling on one area (This is important as to keep the rim from becomming weak and breaking resulting in a stuck case, I'm just trying to keep all the dust that has built up on my stuck case remover box intact).

So back to this .308 project out of .30/06 cases at hand. After we have made a goodly sized handful of reformed cases we need to trim the excess off the neck. A plumbers tubing cutter works well for this as does a trim die though I admit I have limited experience with the trim dies. I prefer to cut with a tubing cutter, anneal the shoulder and neck, Install the decapper and sizer ball back into the FL sizer die and carefully start the case slowly as the inside diameter is greatly reduced and will need to expand a great deal to slip over the neck sizing ball. After this function is performed the first time you might notice the neck looks a little funny not a straight and true profile you would expect. Chamfer the mouth of the case so as to get rid of any fold overs from the case mouth and run the case through the die several more times till it looks more uniform and measures more closely to what its supposed to. Remember we have work hardened the brass a great deal at this point so annealing is a critical process if you don't want to loose those cases during the final loading stage or perhaps the upon the first firing. I promise I will write a article in the near future on annealing and explain the process a little further!

Left is a case that was formed in 6.5 jap dies out of a 30/06 case the base was lathe turned and then after I noted a slight flaw in the neck I decided to grind a profile of the case to make sure I still had subtible wall thickness which you can tell is spot on.

Center is a 22-250 case formed in 6.5 jap dies and the belt lathe turned off. ready to be fire formed.

Right is a 22-250 case after fire forming to 6.5 Japanese. slightly undersized but still works very well.

(ABOVE) All of these are 22-250 cases that were run through the 6.5 japanese dies without neck annealing. Since these were being necked UP the expander ball had to be left in Would annealing the necks of these cases saved them? Most likely NOT as they were ridden hard by the previous owner that left them at the range.

we see a 22-250 case that was annealed at the neck before it was sized up. A collapse resulted in that attempt

#2 It is rather hard to tell but the rim is badly deformed from being left in the same position after each stroke. The case kinda sits higher, Also you can see the formed belt that would be lathe turned off.

#3 We wee the same thing as the first case but with an atempt using 30/06 brass. Note the shoulder on both of these were annealed. My next attempt will be JUST the neck.

#4 we see a badly oversized case that was run through the die. The ring at the neck resulting in excess material not cut off before hand. It is possible with time and effort to salvage this case although running it through a 30/06 FL die minus decaper/expander might help the base form more easily.