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Annealing fired brass

22 Jun 2024
@ 05:15 pm (GMT)

Hannah Clemen

Hi folks,
As I continue to fine tune my reloading process to include better and more controlled case preparation (and better cases!), my thoughts have now turned to annealing fired brass as part of the case prep process.
I have not annealed my brass to date; is this a step that should be included to ensure longer brass life and to get more uniformity in neck tension from firing to firing?


23 Jun 2024
@ 07:23 am (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Annealing fired brass
Hi Hannah, this question is not so easy to answer as it depends on a few factors.

To begin with, if the rifle is behaving well with good accuracy and an acceptable ES versus the range you want to shoot to, then it can pay to leave things alone until the need arises (accuracy falls away / ES rises).

Annealing causes a change in the case and therefore groups. If you anneal each firing and have some form of automated unit that produces a uniform result, then the ammo will remain the same each time you shoot it. The trouble is, such units can be costly and the process can be time consuming.

If you try to hand anneal (say every 6 loads), the freshly annealed ammo may be less uniform and in such instances, accuracy / ES might not be so good until its undergone a fresh round of full pressure fire forming, using the reloading / shooting process to achieve that final uniformity.

It can also depend a good deal on chamber neck tolerances and dies. If the case is being worked back and forth a lot by these processes (e.g .303 / 8x57 chambers back in the days when these were everyday hunting cartridges), annealing can alleviate work hardening. On the other hand, some rifle / cartridge combo's (especially .308) seem to go forever without need of annealing.

Ordinarily when shooting an inexpensive and well behaved cartridge like your .308, one might be inclined to bin the brass after say 12 firings and simply start fresh. But with the situation today, even if purchasing new brass, one may wish to keep the old brass and look to annealing at a later time, even if the method is crude and requires re-fire forming etc.

Personally speaking, I don't like the way things have gone lately with regards to how folk are being taught to achieve accuracy. The current approach generally involves a macro focus on ammo, perhaps due to the fact that this gives the recipient of such information, something to dabble with based on the assumption that any other activity is beyond the capacity of the average pleb. I prefer to spend a great deal of time investigating the rifle itself and in turn, I try to teach readers to be confident to do the same in a DIY setting (without a lathe etc). For example, the table of contents in the accurizing book shows my set up process which if you follow the steps (i.e. trigger work etc), takes hours to complete as opposed to a sales person setting up a rifle at a gun store for the client. Following the set up phase, the second variable is my own technique at the range.

Once I have the rifle set up and I am shooting in good form, I try to isolate basic factors (bore / bedding / ammo).

If the rifle is not bedded but the fit is good in its stock (passed book tests etc), then I hope to see relatively good groups (about an inch perhaps - depending on rifle brand). During this time, I focus on the bore more than the ammo, wanting to see how it behaves as I progress through loads. Provided accuracy is relatively good, I know that bedding will narrow things down. I don't actually muck about with loads too much, especially .308 - just a basic work up which is repeat test fired.

If on the other hand things go wild at the range, then its time to investigate the bore (hand lapping etc) and to recheck that I was correct about the bedding - did I miss something etc.

The ammo is the last thing on my mind as I work through all of this. It is the final variable I hone in on once I start to see consistency. At this point, I might play about a bit with seating depth.

Once you get to the point where things are going well but you want to get down from say .5" to .3 with a low ES, this is the time you might want to play with finer variables. But I would again suggest some caution around the .308 as it is capable of achieving excellent accuracy with the most basic ammo prep. In other words, do check to make sure you have all other aspects sorted.

Thats my basic approach to accuracy including extreme accuracy. I couldn't think of anything worse than just focusing on hand loads and testing large volumes of ammo / ladder testing because quite often this is about finding a harmonic node to suit a flawed platform using a pathetic shooting technique and can be disempowering.

Long winded sorry but hopefully this provides some context.
23 Jun 2024
@ 07:40 pm (GMT)

Hannah Clemen

Re: Annealing fired brass
Hi Nathan,

Thanks so much for your detailed but also very down-to-earth response. It helps put things into perspective for me so I can focus on the things that will make a difference to my shooting rather than go down rabbit holes.

A few years ago I went through some of your steps for accurizing my rifle, albeit some were beyond my level of confidence at the time. Your steps to good technique were also very valuable and helped me on the right path to good repeatable techniques.

Now that I'm getting back into shooting after a 2-year break its a good reminder from you to revisit these fundamentals and make sure I get things right with my rifle and technique before spending too much energy on minute tweaking of my actual reloads.

My trusty Howa .308 is a good accurate rifle, which was made even better with a Precision Platforms carbon stock. Later tweaks could include bedding and an upgraded trigger, but already my best reloads can get accuracy of 0.4"-0.6" at 100m when I'm using good posture, fore-end and trigger control.

Thankyou also for the caveat around annealing and how it can affect the brass. I guess its something I could consider down the track with brass that really needs it, but with the way I'm tracking its good to know that this step is not one I should be concerned with at this stage.


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