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Brass preparation for LRHunting (and DIES selection)

07 Mar 2013
@ 10:25 am (GMT)

Alvaro Piqueras Alonso-Lamberti

Hi all, folks!

I think it´s a good idea to open a post about brass preparation for long range hand loads. When you hand load, a now world of opportunities is open for you, but at the same time, you start to fall to a hell of troubles and money waste!

It´s nearly easy to get into reloading, and with no much effort or inversion you can get cheap and good ammo to fed your rifles. But squeeze the last possibilities of a reloaded round (get the best accuracy and little extreme spread) could be more difficult (and expensive).

I have use mostly LEE equipment, rem or WW brass, CCI primers, etc… as it´s the most affordable here in Spain, and I have many rifles to reload for. But now, I have just a few time, and with that quantity of rifles, I can´t develop charges, get them feeded, sighted in, etc. So I´m selling rifles, dies, etc and want to get just one longe range rifle, and dedicate it more money and time.

After take a look to the factory offers (a custom built it´s far out of my budget), I will buy a 300 win mag Remington 700 Sendero. I will open another post talking about this rig.

But now I want to know what´s the best way to prepare the cases to reload it. Wich ones will be the best option and wich dies will serve me better.

BRASS CHOICE: As Lapua discontinued the 300 WM, I have take a serious look to the Norma brasses. Have read sometimes that Norma was the one who makes the Lapúa brasses (didn´t know if it was the same as the norma brand, or if norma make it under Lapúa´s specifications). The other brand I would consider was the RWS brass. Both choices are more or less at the same price, so I will go with the best one.

DIES SELECTION: I need to choose the dies before talk about case preparation. I think that a bushing neck sizing die will probably be consider when preparing the case. So… What kind of dies will be the best choice? I have consider FORSTER neck sizing and micrometer seating. There are other options as redding or RCBS. Which one is better? Why? I´m sure a neck sizing die will work better in that case.

BRASS PREPARATION: I usually clean the case, primer pocket and inside/outside of the neck. Sizing (usually neck sizing), trimming, chamfer and deburring, and re-clean the neck after polishing the case mouth with steel wool. For the first time I use rem or WW cases, I deburr the flash hole. That was all I do, with cases sorted by weight. But now I want to go a step forward, and i´m thinking in neck turner. So I want to know wich neck turner is good (maybe forster?) and when a how this operation should be done. Before/after neck sizing? How can I determine what bushing is the better to use in my chamber? I have no idea of how use a bushing die and a neck turner separately, so in conjunction this seem to be a real headache.

I want to get mi cartridges to headspace on the shoulder instead of the belt. Don´t know if 338 win mag cases necked down will be a good idea (it will blown a big part of the case body) or going with 300 WM cases, neck it up (323 or 338) and then neck it down. Again… before or after neck turning?

How do you clean and/or polish the inside of the neck? I usually use a brass cleaning tip or steel wool. I do it in inside-outside strokes. One day I used steel wool, making the case roll in a lee zip trim (that mean “circular movement” instead of inside-out movement). I get horrible results, but that was a new load, so i´m not sure what was the problem. Do you recommend some kind of coat inside the neck to reduce friction with the bullet?

The last question I can remember now (I will ask later for sure) is what is the best case trim length. I can determine my chamber real length (using a dummy with half neck of the brass cutted, a bullet seated and a small piece of case neck in the bullet. After chambering it, the neck ring moves down the bullet determining the real chamber length). Once I know that, how much short should be the case? I mean, what´s the ideal distance between the case mouth and the end of the chamber?

I really apologize for that loooooong (We can call this a 1000 yd post!) and boring post (even for my English mistakes), but I think that’s a good idea to talk about that and know the tips and tricks of all folks here.

Thank you very much for the help!!


07 Mar 2013
@ 04:09 pm (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Brass preparation for LRHunting (and DIES selection)
Hi Alvaro, again these are topics to be covered in the third (I think) long range series book.

One thing you must be very careful of, is not to get so involved in the complexities of reloading, that it becomes counterproductive, adding more variables to the accuracy equation, rather than reducing them. Sometimes (actually most times), very simple reloading practices are all that is required.

Lets take case run out as an example- measuring the concentricity of a loaded bullet. Lets say you buy this tool and it tells you that your ammo is not concentric. All this really tells you is that you could have been rotating the bullet at intervals during the seating operation. It can also mean that case necks could do with neck turning. But if you take an indepth study of neck turning as I have done, you will find that this is just as fraught with variables (such as case body run out!). To this end, I would advise a simple Forster neck turn tool- do the job but don't let it turn your head inside out. Take a skim cut and leave it at that.

It is so important to avoid paralysis of analysis. You could chase fine micrometer measurements for weeks and miss the big picture, such as a bore that needs to be lapped or discrepancies in shooting technique. You could indulge yourself in intellectual discussion with the most perdantic shooters and still miss thee basics.

I use many brands of die and some home made dies that were done in the space of a lunch break. I do have a nice set of Forster neck dies / seating dies which are very good. But I also have very good Hornady dies. I do not use busing dies. On the Hornady dies, I hone the button to the diameter I want, my sole focus being on optimal neck tension. I like to have the necks tight to keep ES low. But not so tight that it is difficult to seat bullets. I do this by feel, not with a measuring tool.

My criteria for custom rifles is .5" maximum and I try to get in around .250 to .3". It is the heavy recoiling .300 magnums that can keep me out around the .450-.500" mark. If I am tricking up a basic budget factory rifle, I still like to try and get the client under .5". My preference (for precision long range rifles) is to rebarrel the budget factory rifle at an accuracy level of greater than .6"- after exhausting all of the complex variables and finding that it made no difference! But that is up to the client and what he can afford. Some folk will accept .650-.750" and limit shots to 700 yards as long as the budget barrel will hold.

A good rifle is the foundation for my accuracy criteria, hand loads can only go so far. My reloading processes are simple. I am constantly having to test my processes though, I will test my 'simple' load methods against complex processes and what I have found is this- if you have an accurate rifle, the more complex practices can shrink groups down by .1 to .2 of an inch. If you have a flawed rifle platform- nothing will help. Often we chase reloading variables when the fact is- the rifle is the limiting factor. You have to bare in mind that often, my rifles have to go back to hunters/shooters who only have limited hand loading experience. Not much point in me handing a client a bloody finicky rifle.

When I write a book about the reloading practices I use, it will be another cut the bullshit book. I have the confidence to do this because I have done the hard yards, tested basic methods against complex methods in the most finicky rifles. But there are also simple mistakes to be made when hand loading that can effect accuracy, so these will be addressed in depth.

As to your other questions:

I do not clean the inside of case necks with anything more than a cotton bud. Any carbon or graphite residue is utilized as a lube when seating.

Max case length should be .2mm shorter than the chamber neck cut out. Trim to .3mm shorter than this if you are doing a lot of shooting. Trim .2mm shorter if you are only shooting casually.

07 Mar 2013
@ 04:22 pm (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Brass preparation for LRHunting (and DIES selection)
One last thing. Simple doesn't mean easy. To the contrary. The reason I try to keep things simple is that this job can be so damned hard.
07 Mar 2013
@ 04:29 pm (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Brass preparation for LRHunting (and DIES selection)
Sorry, I have just noticed more of your questions.

Do not use .338 brass for the .300, the .338 is much much shorter.

Norma brass is good but it can be soft in the primer pockets with full power loads. I prefer annealed Win brass for the .300WM. But if Norma is easier for you to obtain then use it. Sometimes a rifle only likes it hot- that's when you need to consider a tough brass. If you can afford to batch brass, go for it. Most people cannot afford to do this. Don't weigh and batch your projectiles, this will drive you nuts.

Neck size if possible, FL size only when needed. Forster neck die set, Hornady FL die.

08 May 2014
@ 10:38 pm (GMT)

Alvaro Piqueras Alonso-Lamberti

Re: Brass preparation for LRHunting (and DIES selection)
I get this old post up... because of the problem with the RWS brasses.

I have some R-P, W-W and Norma cases, picked up from the range, given by friends, etc...

Until I get a W-W or R-P batch of brasses... What difference can make the use of mixed brasses (I didn´t mean to use WW, RP and Norma together)? I can see different headstamps in each of the brands, so maybe one is 15 years old, the others 15 months...

I will gave the RWSs another try, but aniway, this hundred of brasses where from different factory ammo boxes. Until i can get other stuff, I´m using hornady FL and seatter dies.

Too much worry on that? I can wait and get a hundred of new unprimed cases. It´s better than wasting time, barrel, powder and bullets!


(Note: I have read a lot of your posts in the forum. But your responses here -could consider the three post as one- seem great. I really enjoy reading it once and once again. Could be because is an answer to my questions, who knows... Thanks again!!)
08 May 2014
@ 11:03 pm (GMT)

Bob Mavin

Re: Brass preparation for LRHunting (and DIES selection)
G'day Alvaro
I've found K&M neck turning products excellent. I use Redding bushing dies to get the tension I want and Redding comp bullet seater dies.

I only neck size and use Redding imperial dry lube, it's little container full of small ceramic beads coated in graphite . Just poke the neck in, it helps the inside mandrel slide nicely.

When my cases start to get a bit tight I take the guts from my bolt for better feel and keep adjusting a body die or full length die down till the bolt just closes nicely on the case then lock the adjusting ring up and leave it set at that for future use. I find Imperial die sizing wax the best for the outside of my cases.
09 May 2014
@ 09:05 am (GMT)

mark whiteley

Re: Brass preparation for LRHunting (and DIES selection)
lots of good question's and lots of good answer's,
very interesting

regards mark
09 May 2014
@ 04:21 pm (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Brass preparation for LRHunting (and DIES selection)
Hi Alvaro, WW is very strong in the case head and has good case capacity.

Norma is softer but generally of higher quality. Out of 50 WW, I may throw out one or two malformed cases. Generally, I use WW but as I wrote in the second book, there are times when I use Norma- especially if loading the Weatherby cartridges.

Of all of the tools you are contemplating, a Sinclair concentricity tool would be one of the best starting points. With this tool, you can establish whether your dies are producing concentric ammo. If the dies are producing high run out, then you can contemplate changing dies. If you change dies and still obtain high run out, you can then look at a neck turn tool. Without a concentricity tool, you are basically guessing- never really knowing what is effecting what.

Here is an example. My 7mm Practical with either WW or Rem brass produces less than 1 thou run out with a Hornady 7mm RUM die with the bottom chopped off (to make the length correct) and a Forster seating die. It does the same with a Forster sizing sizing die and the Forster seating die. My point is, my horrible chopped down experimental die works extremely well. Accuracy is excellent. I expected very poor concentricity with the chopped down die but this did not occur.

As for bushing dies, it can pay to purchase a couple of different bushings so that you can alter the tension and manipulate such factors as ES (extreme velocity spread) as well as accuracy.
09 May 2014
@ 09:34 pm (GMT)

Alvaro Piqueras Alonso-Lamberti

Re: Brass preparation for LRHunting (and DIES selection)
Thanks all;

Bob, now I have to use the hornady dies, until i can aford another. Probably, my next tool will be a forster neck turning tool (K&M seem to be nice, but as I have the forster trimmer, this can save me a lot of time).

Nathan, thanks for the info. As you stated in the firsts responses to this thread, runout sometimes can help nothing (except telling you something is wrong), so for now i will wait for the concentriity gauge (will be happy when i get one!).

Sorry to say, but this time I think you didn´t realized the "big question" (i´m sure that it was my fault, because sometimes I explain myself like "Sitting bull". Really need to improve my english!).

I can explain myself better with an example:

Imagine that i have 50 WW cases: 10 are from a factory box of a friend, another 20 picked up from a shooting range during two years (one case each time i go to the range), 10 oldy and rusty cases founded in grandpa´s haystack and the last twenty from a factory box purchasing to breaking the barrel in. All 50 are WW cases, but i´m sure there will be differences.

So, can I go on using those cases, or just bought 50 or 100 brand new unfired cases (same production batch).

Maybe if those 50 mixed cases where Norma can make a difference?

Hope I have explained myself better, sorry for the annoyances...

09 May 2014
@ 11:27 pm (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Brass preparation for LRHunting (and DIES selection)
Ok, understood. I would start fresh. If the ages are vastly different, there may be differences in batches- including case capacity. The brass will also be in various stages of degradation. To some extent, annealing and cleaning would help uniform the batch but it would be much better to start over.

Do not use .338 brass, too much of a stretch to fireform, the cases would become very weak.
10 May 2014
@ 12:52 am (GMT)

jason brown

Re: Brass preparation for LRHunting (and DIES selection)
I very much like my hornady brass in 7mm magnum. I have never had a split neck, and iv only ever reused factory brass, some shot from my barrel, and another lot brought from someone else.
I also like my hornady dies. I once checked the sized brass for concentricity and it was very good. I forget the exact measurement.
I use a full length die. I take a fired case and measure it with the hornady headspace gauge. then after sizing its still the same size, maybe the odd one gets bumped a thou. (I guess im neck sizing with my full length die, but the case headspace measures the same each time, they don't grow like a neck die lets them after a while needing the shoulder to be bumped)
the idea of a neck die doesn't really interest me. but im no expert.
iv only worn out one set of brass which was six firings. but I was learning and bumping the shoulder back more than I really needed to. they started to show faint head separation lines maybe I could of pushed one or two more but I don't think its worth it. the batch im on now are at six firings and looking much better. but in saying this. I havnt annealed at all and am happy with my six firings and then chucking them. neck tention hasn't opened groups at all at this stage. I think id rather chuck them out here than anneal. one im not up to speed with annealing and two. im happy to start again with new brass.
I don't know for what reason, but the other day I seen on another forum that hornady brass in a magnum seems to be a popular choice.

as far as cleaning, I use ultrasonic, I de-prime, clean, size then clean again.
is it worth it? probably not. but its what I did for this load, so I will keep at it.
if I start another load I might just bore brush the necks, size, then clean just the once.

well that's a bit of what I do. im not an expert. Nathan has helped me a lot! and lots of what I do are his recommendations. but I wont say everything. there could be things iv mentioned he wouldn't do for whatever reason. but a big help none the less. I guess we all get a bit of confidents and find out our own things that work for us.
10 May 2014
@ 07:59 pm (GMT)

Alvaro Piqueras Alonso-Lamberti

Re: Brass preparation for LRHunting (and DIES selection)
Thanks for the help!

Gonna give RWS another chance...
11 May 2014
@ 12:01 pm (GMT)

john mitchell

Re: Brass preparation for LRHunting (and DIES selection)
21st century shooting makes a very good turning lathe and cutters. I think Nathan's comment on chasing every aspect of bullet prep is apt. But low es is pretty nice to see on paper.p
01 Nov 2014
@ 07:03 pm (GMT)

Alvaro Piqueras Alonso-Lamberti

Re: Brass preparation for LRHunting (and DIES selection)
Hi all;

Old thread, but i´m going slow, step by step.

Someone have noticed I have had many problems with my sendero. Things start to go well, but you can´t relax too much!

The other day i was reloading some rounds. During F-L process, i get a bit distracted, and a case mouth traps the decapping needle, bending the threaded rod (hornady die: it has a threaded rod where you screw the expander and the decapping needle). I just raise the handle and start again, after checking the case mouth. I didn´t noticed that the expander now was bended. After each sizing, when I expand and extract the case, the whole case neck becomes bended.

I realized the problem when a loaded round roll over the bench... I get atonished as I can see a VERY BIG runout, not with a measuring tool, just with my nacked eye. I was loading for a competition, out of home. I straighten the rod as best as i can with polygrips, resized the cases and selected the ones with less runout. The competition went bad, accuracy wanes -obviously!-.

Will this problem be solved just resizing the case? Neck sizing will be enough, or F-L is a better fix? Will be any noticiable difference between the "straight" cases and the ones that have been bended?

Thanks for your help!
01 Nov 2014
@ 11:27 pm (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Brass preparation for LRHunting (and DIES selection)
The cases should be better now that they have been fired. Yes, neck sizing will be best now. I have some bits I want to go over with you so will PM.
15 Dec 2014
@ 10:55 am (GMT)

Alvaro Piqueras Alonso-Lamberti

Re: Brass preparation for LRHunting (and DIES selection)

Last day tried to reload some rounds...

F-L 15 cases to get 8 "OK". The other 7 get cracks in the necks. Piece of s***t, i think. Accuracy was not the same al before (bigger group).

Have think about anneal them, but decided to get a fresh box of unfired cases. This will be the way to go, as I have also come across some Vihtavuori N165! Don´t want to waste powder looking for accuracy with dud cases.

Maybe annel them aniway, and keep them stored to use them for close range, practice or fouling shots.


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