Once Fired Military Brass...paying the price

Discussion in 'Ammunition and Reloading' started by Ulfberht, Feb 4, 2016.

  1. Ulfberht Training and mentoring the next generation.

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    Newer handloaders beware of the "cheaper" military O/F brass.

    Just into my 4th year of hand-loading and the learning hasn't backed off a bit.

    I bought some .308 & 5.56 O/F military brass last year....unbeknownst to me at the time; the brass is bell-shaped at the base from having been fired from a machinegun, and it didn't occur to me that my so-called full length resizing dies aren't designed to push out the bell shape.

    The bell shaped brass won't fully chamber in my tight little rifle chambers.....:D

    Since then, I've gone through all my hand loads :eek: , and checked them with a caliper; pulling the bullets, resizing the brass with RCBS Short Base dies, and re-releloading the cartridges..

    I'm saving the mixed powder medley (for other uses) and it's almost up to a pound.

    A pain but I'm glad to have sorted this out.
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  2. MechTech Moderator/ Damn Yankee

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    Good to know. Thanks for the heads up on the military brass. I will have to look at some of mine.;)
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  3. Keith Moderator

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    I'll have to keep that in mind. Of course, I still need a bench and equipment but I'm trying to learn as much as I can before I start buying stuff.
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  4. spamassassin Well-Known Member

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    If you use machine gun brass (I do, in .308), then it's a good idea to do a multi-stage sizing on them and lube the whole case including inside the case mouth. The machine guns in use have really sloppy chambers. I didn't see any belling in my lot of 5000 .308's but boy were they ever shot in an oversize pipe. Proper and sufficient amounts of case lube are necessary or you'll be doing the stuck case thing more often than you'd like.

    I lube with home made lanolin & alcohol lube, then full length size using 2-3 progressively longer pulls of the handle until the whole case is sized. This helps keep cases from sticking. Then use a small base die to get them back down to minimum and run a neck trim on them. Then I chamber check empty cases and sort by head stamp and finally use a cone tipped 3/8" drill bit (turning pretty slowly) to pull off the primer crimp. After that I only neck size as long as possible since they're used in a bolt gun.

    If using military brass, definitely reduce from book loads by at least a grain or 2 as the cases are thicker and have a smaller volume. With LC10 cases I had to go down 3 grains with IMR 4064 or pressures would get too high.
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  5. Chuck S Active Member

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    7.62mm NATO military brass has all been fired from machineguns which have loose chambers to permit reliable functioning at high cyclic rates and under austere conditions. 5.56mm will be a mix sometimes.

    -- Chuck
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  6. spamassassin Well-Known Member

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    yeah, if you get SAW brass you'll hate life so make sure if you're buying 5.56 brass that it explicitly says "No SAW brass". 5.56 brass fired in the SAW will have jacked up rims and big dents in the side. It can be reloaded but I won't touch the stuff.
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  7. Keith Moderator

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    Good to know!


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  8. hombre243 Member

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    I will make sure I bookmark this thread. Thanks sa.
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  9. rawhidekid Member

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    My Speer reloading manual says "Reduce charges developed in commercial cases at least five percent when loading military brass." It also recommends matching head stamps for best results.:)
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  10. Keith Moderator

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    From my reading, matching head stamps, regardless of caliber, is generally considered a good practice. Unless you are making plinking rounds where they are more for fun instead of high precision accuracy.

    Keeping military brass and civilian brass separate is still a good idea due to the cartridge thickness issue.


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  11. hombre243 Member

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    Rawhidekid and Keith...both good points...I adhere to it all,
  12. Ulfberht Training and mentoring the next generation.

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    As careful as I was when I first started; I had decades-worth of brass in heaped in buckets, boxes, & cans.

    I went through more media (for the tumbler) in the first 6 months than I have in the 4 years..

    I read the books and forum postings, and was real careful....tested each load before mass production.

    Everything went well until the 4th year (@ a year after Sandyhook) when I ran out of new and used brass and bought O/F military.

    So, now that I've reached my initial goals, I find myself in 5 handloading modes; because storage has become an issue..:cool:

    1. High quality stuff with all new components for hunting deer, bear, & elk.
    2. Good quality stuff with used brass and new or pull-down FMJ (TEOTWAWKI).
    3. Preparing & stockpiling primed brass and other components.
    4. Diving into low-base shotshell loading for upland game and clay pigeons.
    5. Plinking and training loads (expendable ammo.....).

    And some cartridges are commercially-aquired for Critical Defense.:rolleyes:

    Would I knowingly buy machine gun fired brass again?

    Only if I have to, but all newly aquired O/F 5.56 & .308 goes through the short base dies and caliper, just to be sure.
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  13. hombre243 Member

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    (TEOTWAWKI)??????????? What's that?

    I started off buying factory ammo for all me guns for the brass. I am just learning about machine gun brass. How do you tell the difference?

    I have only seen one place online that even mentions it sells machine gun brass and I don't remember who that is. When I was a club member here near home I picked up the brass from a local rifle manufacturer. It was always once fired from their guns, used at the range in the company's tests before the guns were sold. 308 and 223 are plentiful. I intend to re-join the club mainly for the brass. I have only recently started buying once fired rifle brass online so I can load up the bins with ammo.

    I don't know where much of the brass comes from except for the factory hulls I reload, but I get some great groups with all my ammunition. No bulged or loose primers, all have chambered correctly, and no damaged cases. My Lee dies resize everything I put through them...providing I use the right lube.

    I did read in some article somewhere that small base dies may help with difficult cases if used in some lever guns. I am hoping to buy a lever action soon, so if i have problems chambering and/or ejecting I may need the small base dies if they are available in a 30-30.

    I had planned to get a new AR, but I decided on the lever gun. All my centerfire rifles are bolt guns. My previous 3030, a Marlin did just fine without needing small base dies. But, I will buy what I need as I need it just so all my ammo works safely and reliably. Which is pretty cool really, cause I like to buy new stuff.:D
  14. Keith Moderator

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    TEOTWAWKI: The End Of The World As We Know It

    Also known as WROL: Without Rule Of Law

    Or WSHF: When S#%t Hits the Fan.


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  15. hombre243 Member

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    AHA! Too many acronyms, not enough Mime.:cool:
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  16. Ulfberht Training and mentoring the next generation.

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    I'll try to answer that,

    "The End Of The World As We Know It"; most everyone has their own definitions or so-called event triggers, but here are a couple: a breakdown of societry, post apacolypse, civil war, zombie attacks, bad hair day, broken finger nail, etc.

    The people who sell O/F machine gun brass will usually specify in the product description.

    For me, O/F military brass is all suspect until it gets checked with a caliper.

    At least one company sells a "Chamber Checker".

    It's the brass that sticks in the chamber and prevents the bolt from closing/locking.

    Most common in 5.56 (M249 Squad Automatic Weapon or SAW) & the .308 (M240B).

    Brand new military brass without the primer crimp is of the best made.
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  17. hombre243 Member

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    Broken fingernails suck...

    Other than the Rapture I don't pay much attention to the other stuff. When it happens I may not be around anyway. But, anarchy is already a huge problem. If it wasn't there would not be so much killing. Know what I mean?

    As mentioned in another post...don't know which one...I was on a site that did say specifically they sold machine gun brass. If I knew where it was I would bookmark it just so I used it as last resort.
    I just got some 308 cases from Amazon that was really rough. It took about 3x the grease to resize them. But i got a refund, and they let me keep the brass. I am experimenting with it at present. If I use enough RCBS grease they resize fine but unless it is dripping with the stuff I am afraid the cases will stick. Already happened 3 times with the Lee resizing lube I got. It is now resting nicely in the bottom of the trash heap just outside of town.

    I have a Lyman case gauge that is quick to let me know if a case will or will not fit a chamber. I imagine that is what you call a chamber checker?

    SAW...10-4.

    would like to know where to get NEW military brass. I don't suppose that is sold to the public, right?

    You mentioned measuring with a caliper. What measurements should I look for?

    Thanks for the help
    h
  18. Keith Moderator

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    Mainly the case width at the base but if you suspect the cartridge came out of a machine gun, probably all of them since their chambers are so loose.

    My guess on the chamber checker is a "Dummy Round" made to SAMMI specs but with no primer or powder. Or perhaps a GO, NO-GO gauge. It checks the chamber of your rifle as to where it falls in the industry specifications. From the factory, they can vary depending on the condition of the chamber reamer used to make the rifle. In other words, it can be tight or loose in the specification range depending on how worn out the reamer is.
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  19. hombre243 Member

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    Thanks. If I get any fat cases like I got last week, I will know why they are as they are, and what to check, and how to work them. This last batch was a real PITA. And not the Greek sandwich!

    Moving on...

    I load all brass the first time with Trail Boss and fireform them. Then I have neck size dies for loading after that. It's fun to load low pressure loads and bang on the gong targets. I don't damage the gongs, except for the paint job, and I get to go to the range using the excuse of doing something useful.

    My MVP is a one holer if I can control my shaking. But I don't shoot any of my loads much after I develop them. I hunt with different loads so I always have a few on the shelf for hunting and more in the bag for testing. I have about 300 loads ready to test. They were already fire formed. When I choose the best of them I will load a few hundred and shelf them. I shoot more testing than I do hunting. But both kinds of shooting are fun.

    I am going to use these Lyman gauges until I find something better. I just got them and have been checking everything in the rifle...safely of course.So far so good.

    I have a Savage 11 VT in 308. Bull Barrel. 24" bbl. It loves 180 gr jspbt. I have 100 rounds of 125 gr TNT loaded for testing. It is a good shooter too but i got it to learn to shoot long range then let my membership at the club expire last year and haven't got back to the range. They have 200, 300, 600 yd ranges in one area and 25-165 yd ranges in another. I am anxious to try something farther out than 100. Closer to home is a muddy 100 yd state run range and I go there most of the time. It's nice just windy and muddy and all open. The club has their 25-165 range under a roof. Nice. several indoor ranges for pistol and rimfire rifle. No magnums please.

    I have plenty pf places to shoot...but the damn car quit 2 months ago and the hood cable broke and I haven't had the money to get it fixed. So I have been emptying the shelves here at home using up all empties and all other components waiting for a warm day so I can get under the car to see if I can get to the hood latch.

    I am just about out of components except powder, but I cannot seem to get away from this sub freezing weather.

    ****

    "I load all brass the first time with Trail Boss and fireform them". I have since learned that this practice may not give BAD results but it will not give the best results and may be harder on the brass if the brass is loaded to higher pressures later. I do not know exactly why but I stopped using Trail Boss for fire forming and now I load the cases using my tested recipes and, well, so far so good. I probably do not shoot and load enough to notice any difference. But, why take a chance, right?

    I will use Trail Boss for my light gong loads in the 3030.
  20. GrocMax Active Member

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    SAW 5.56 can usually be resized fine, they're cheap, throw 'em away if its suspect. If you are doing any wildcat from 5.56 or 308 use new fully annealed brass, don't bother with once fired. 6-7 years ago brass shortage forced many of us to use once fired but that is no longer the case.
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