So I finally got my press and started practicing. I've got everything except the scale so I made up a few rounds (no powder or primers of course.)
Sizing/decapping and expanding dies are pretty straight forward and appear to be working well, but the seating crimping die angers me. After much cursing and 1/8th turns and readjustment after tightening took it out of spec I think I'm good. Thank goodness this is lock n load. I'll probably just buy separate die sets for .38s instead of messing with these!
I learned what happens when you put that die too low (cartridge 0) and dabbled around with the rest to get a COL in spec.
I'm sure I'll get used to it a bit more as time goes on and I get some more practice, but wanted to at least show what I had so far and see if anyone had any feedback, or if anything stands out.
For example Case 4 appears to not be crimped enough and case 5 seems to be my best specimen (these are not in order of creation). If anyone has any tips, words of caution or sees any red flags based on what you see, please share.
Are these all the same brass? I am assuming it was range brass since you mentioned "decapping".
Since the brass is different lengths, even with the die adjusted you'll end up with different crimps but your OAL will be consistent. I'm not suggesting you trim your brass. What you planning to use these loads for? It's clear the crimps are inconsistent, although the overall length looks good. I don't think it's a good use of time to trim brass for plinking - but personally I take pleasure in making some "perfect" rounds once in a while, especially for the high powered handgun loads.
If it were me, I would adjust for slightly more crimp and run them all through again. A tight crimp will wear the brass out faster, but a loose crimp in a revolver can jam up the gun and turn a happy day into a miserable learning experience.
The crimps on 1, 2, and 9 look best to me.
The crimps on 4, 10, and 14 look "troublingly" not tight enough.
On the rest there is clearly a "roll" going on with the crimp - but I can see a shadow between the cannelure and the brass, which means it isn't very tight.
I'm in WA...you're in ME....we're about as far apart as possible. What does your reloading book say about how tight to crimp onto the cannelures of jacketed bullets?
I'd spring for a factory crimp die from Lee when I'm reloading 223 all brass under the maximum case length I will mich and throw the difference in 10/1000's in different containers,then when I reload I take and set the crimp die for the length I'm crimping which gives me a decent crimp without over or under crimping by trying to run cases that run around 30 - 40/1000 difference
Can't go wrong with a factory crimp die.
Hmmm, I mainly reload range brass, sometimes get lucky and meet a shooter who doesn't
reload. That's not as often as it used to be. Anyway I've never measured the case length.
Interesting ... something I probably should be doing. Wish I would have seen this before
reloading ~ 150 .45's.
I'll ditto aus71383 although my ole eyes aren't what they used to be ! Did you get a
" bullet puller " ? Hate to see good brass go to waste.
A seating/crimping die will work fine. The trick is to set it up straight. It's all I've ever used and it's never caused a problem. Range brass isn't an issue, though you might run into cases with crimped primers--also not a problem to reload, just have to clean out the crimp. A factory crimp die is great for fixing problems that shouldn't be happening. Straight wall pistol cases don't need trimming.
With the exception of #1, your loads don't look bad. Just a varience on seating depth and crimp. Most people want to over crimp. Crimp only enough to keep the bullet from jumping. Over crimping only overworks the mouth and lead to early case splits, etc.
I wish I could sit down with you and help you out but this is the best I can do.
1. Back the crimping die out a couple of turns so that it does NOT crimp.
2. Screw the seating stem in until it seats the bullet to the COL you want--or the case mouth is centered or to slightly above center on the channelure. Lower press. Back the seat stem out or remove altogether.
3. Screw die in 1/8 turn at a time until you get the amount of crimp you want (and don't over do it!). Secure the locking ring at that point.
4. With case still fully inserted in the die, lower the seating stem until it touches the bullet. Don't force it.
Your next load should be fine, maybe a slight tweak will be needed.
Thanks all for the tips. I hadn't read anything on crimp tightness on cannelure's so I think I'm going to have to go back on that one and take a look.
Also, thank you for bringing up another good point which is if they are all the same brass. I had mostly shot 158gr ammo but after you mentioned that, I do recall some that were lighter which I can see how that would affect case length.
I have some 5.56 to reload eventually, but I wasn't even going to try rifle cases until I could at least get to the point where I don't screw up straight-walled pistol. My primary goals at this point are safety and the fundamental skills and develop an eye for what "looks right" and what to look for.
There are a few places that offer reloading classes around here and I'll likely take one, as well as get some help from others in my club. There's a lot to be said for real-world experience that the internet and books can't provide.
I definitely have a bullet puller. I anticipiated quite a few mistakes on my part and there's no way I'd want to waste. :)
I'll take a look at some of those things people mentioned above and see if I can further tweak this some.
Do you guys typically make 5 or 6 loads and then fire them off or do you make larger runs?
Guys you have to spend some more time checking your brass, range brass. wow I never take range brass unless I know who its from. I know guys who reload a piece of brass until it worn out then leave it at the range. You don't want to be the guy that reloads it and finds out about case head separation the hard way. I measure everything even brand new brass. Please read up some more on the issues and stay safe.
Let me clarify as I think my terminology may be off. All of my brass is once-fired factory that I have shot myself. Only 10 pieces have been scavenged from the range and I have them separated and haven't done anything with them yet.
I was interpreting the "range brass" as the intended use of my loads, meaning that I would just be plinking at the range and wouldn't be using them hunting. Considering my primary goal is not to explode my face, I'll bone up a bit more on brass inspection.
For new loads I'll typically make 10-20 loads. My primary concern is consistancy and accuracy I've never found hot loads to be beneficial in those areas.
Nearly 95% of my cases are range cases or once-fired military 5.56 cases. I ask the guys next to me if they're saving their brass and if not if I can have, and the answer is almost always yes. I might do difference if I didn't see them opening boxes of new ammo straight from Walmart. It's never been a problem.
I inspect each one after the initial sizing and cull any with visible defects, most commonly splits in the neck. Look for tiny nicks or cuts in the mouth edge as that's a potential split in the making. I use a magnifying glass to inspect that. I also gave up sorting cases. I can understand where someone involved in precision match shooting may sort by headstamp and trim each to exact length, etc. but for range practice and most other use, it's not necessary.
OldVet is on the money with the seat/crimp die adjustment and other advice. Also note that .38 Special brass is relatively thin, and coupled with the long case it's more likely to result in your example #1. With practice, you'll have fewer and fewer of those.
Range brass? I'm not worried about pistol brass I pick up in the common calibers. High-pressure magnum rounds like .357 and .44, and all rifle brass - I want to know where it comes from. Not only are the pressures substantially higher, there's a lot more powder involved so the net energy in those rounds is many times higher than with, say, a .38 or a .45 ACP.
For roll crimps I haven't needed a separate factory crimp die, and again, the .38 Special is pretty mild and shouldn't cause the bullets to jump (and tie up the gun) unless you're shooting heavy loads in very light guns. .45 ACP was a different story for me, and I found the extra die to be a big time saver for the taper crimp, especially when switching among bullet types.
Feel I need to clarify my " range " brass too.
Like OldVet and gasmitty I'm careful in that I see folks shooting the calibers I'm reloading and approach them
about picking up their brass. Sometimes I'll score the empty carton as well. Brass that's obviously been laying
on the ground for awhile gets passed on or I'll pick it up and throw it in the junk can like all should be doing.
Whether out of respect for the grey hair or ? most often than not the shooter will pick up his brass and hand
it to me. How about that ! It helps if you groan a little bit when straightening up.
I do visually inspect all brass before de-priming and they go in the ultrasonic cleaner.
As to range brass--I just returned from the local indoor range, which I don't really care to use but didn't feel up to a 45 minutes drive to the outdoor range. Not too busy but when I finished with 100 rounds through my G30 .22 conversion, I noticed everyone had left and no one had bothered to clean up the brass. I did a quick sweep, and because there was no brass bucket available I felt obligated to dump it all in my bag and take it home (no signage in regards to cleaning up or taking brass.). Scored about 3 boxes of 9mm, maybe a box of .45 ACP, a few 5.56s which I haven't loaded in ages and a bunch of .380 that I don't need. What I don't keep will get hauled to the public outdoor range and contributed to their recyling barrels.
Now to the cleaning and inspecting!
Good advice above. Love "0"--that's one of those lesson specimens. "4" and "14" appear a little weak on the roll crimp, but follow the advice above & you'll be good as gold. Inre: range brass, of course I use it! If it has no serious defects, it gets reloaded. My only caveat is that if I'm loading anywhere near max I use my own once-fired or new brass (mine is Starline).
Correct me if I am wrong, but to all the people picking up 5.56 brass, I thought those military cartridges were non-reloadable due to the thicker brass necks etc. I have yet to start reloading, but I am looking into it and trying to learn everything I can.