Monday, September 08, 2008

Guns: The Minimalist Handloader, Part 4 (long)

This week, we'll be taking a look at the entire reloading process, start to finish, with a series of pictures illustrating the whole thing. I was going to use .38 Special as an example, but I decided to use .223 Remington in order to show case trimming.

We start with fired brass. You can use 00-grade steel wool to polish a case pretty easily. Note that I tend to keep the ones I fire, so none of them are too dirty - if you use pickups from your local range you may need to get more comprehensive methods of cleaning.

Lube the outside of the case. avoiding the shoulder and outside of the neck. Make sure to lubricate the inside of the neck with a Q-tip, however.

Resize and deprime the case using the press. I like to use a separate dedicated decapping die for military brass - those crimped in primers can be a headache to punch out if you're busy resizing a case in the same motion.

The next few steps are optional for once or twice-fired handgun cases, but they're aboslutely essential for rifle cases. Measure the case length and see if it's okay. In this photo, 1.766" is over the max length for a .223 case, so we have to trim.

Here's the simplest trimmer you can buy - a shellholder and case length gage combo with a screw in trimmer. It's slow going if you don't have a power drill to put the shellholder in.

Trim the case mouth. Not all cartridge brass is identical - I've found my WWB and S&B cases trim easily, while the Prvi Partisan milsurp .223 cases can be a bit "gritty," for lack fo a better word.

After trimming, chamfer and debur the inside and outside of the case mouth.

That's it for the case length. Now ream out the crimp on the primer pocket. You can swage it if you want to get fancy, but the reamers seem to work fine.

Clean the primer pocket out. I've found that the primer pocket brush RCBS makes is aces for this work.

Now we get to the stuff where you need to pay attention. The previous steps could be done while watching TV - these next ones cannot. Pictured above is me using a hand-priming device to prime empty cases. It's pretty safe, but wear eye goggles!.

Next, weigh or measure your powder charge and funnel it into the case. This particular load is 20.8 grains of H335 driving a 55 gr boattail FMJ.

You're almost done - just seat the bullet. If you're loading for an AR-15, it's best to do an extra crimp to secure the bullet in place (I suggest only buying bullets with cannelures).

So there you have it. You've just reloaded .223 Remington with basic hand tools, all of which will fit inside a backpack and won't require any power source save elbow grease.

That wasn't so hard! Well, to be honest, it is pretty laborious, but if you can follow directions and pay attention, you'll have match grade target ammunition for much, much less than what it would cost to buy it.


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