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Old February 11, 2011, 12:10 PM   #1
steve1147
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Need advice on reloading .223 Remington

I've been reloading handgun ammo for a few years now in 45, 9, 38, 357, 40, etc. on a pair of Lee Pro-1000 progressive presses. I also have two rcbs single stage presses I normally use for Lee FCD's as a final step for the auto cartridges.
I'm considering purchasing an AR-style rifle in .223, but if I do I'd like to reload for it. I've heard the .223 cartridge called "easy" to reload elsewhere on this forum. Is this something I want to do on a 3-station progressive? Do these cartridges even compare to loading handgun ammo?
I've also read in one of my manuals of slower loads for this cartridge using cast bullets of #2, which would be nice since I cast for my 45 and 38.
Thanks! Steve W.
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Old February 11, 2011, 01:03 PM   #2
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Bottleneck rifle cases require case lubrication to resize. They also tend to grow a few thousandths with each firing, so they have to be trimmed periodically after sizing and before loading. For these reasons I usually find it easier to use a single-stage press to resize. Then I clean the lube off in plain corncob in a tumbler and check to see if I need to trim yet. If so, I do that.

Another issue is involved in reloading for a self-loading rifle with a floating firing pin, like the AR or the Mini-14. It is important to minimizing the risk of slamfires in these rifles that the primer be seated about .003"-.005" below flush with the case head. Be prepared to check for high primers on every round and seat deeper if you find one. (Using the military-hard CCI #41 primers is another slamfire mitigating step you can take for the self-loader.) I usually use a hand tool that lets me feel the primer touching the bottom of the primer pocket, then run them quickly through the primer seater on my Forster Co-ax press, which forces the primers the right distance below flush.

If you are going to use cases from fired military ammunition, you will need a means of swaging out or otherwise removing the crimp from the case so the primers seat easily. That's another step that follows decapping and resizing before you can complete the loading operations.
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Old February 11, 2011, 03:14 PM   #3
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With two single stage presses you can resize and do all your brass prep like Unclenick stated, including installing the primer, then ...

powder charge the cases in batches,

set up one single stage press for seating - seat

and the other for crimping - crimp

I'm assuming you will be using a bullet with a crimp groove for your AR. It goes pretty quickly and you can do quite a few in a short time. The brass prep is 80% of the work.
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Old February 11, 2011, 03:37 PM   #4
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I would just make sure and run them up a factory crimp die if they will be going in an AR.
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Old February 12, 2011, 09:52 AM   #5
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Follow unclenick's advice when it comes to primers, primer pockets, and primer seating.
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Old February 12, 2011, 01:37 PM   #6
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I've reloaded 223 on the Lee Pro 1000. If you resize and decap on the single stage press you can then run them through the Pro 1000 with ease.
Get a case gauge and use it. A lot of AR's are chambered very tight. It's no fun pulling out those stuck rounds.
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Old February 13, 2011, 02:38 PM   #7
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It all depends on how accurate you want to be?

For my AR-15 I need to full length re-size each piece.
For my Bolt .223 all I need to do is neck size.

This causes a problem. If you neck size and bump the shoulder the brass lasts longer. Some say it's more accurate. Look to the Benchrest shooters and they all full length re-size, that should tell you something about accuracy.

Should you mix these two up bad things happen. The case gets stuck in the AR-15 that only fits the Bolt gun. You extract the case with force and dump the powder into the AR-15 action. Everyone has done it. In a dogtown 1 mile from the rig and no access to the cleaning rod you walk.

I just this year started Full length re-sizeing all .223 ammo that I use and have been very happy. It is a no brainer, never a worry about "will it fit". The length of the ammo in an AR-15 is also very precise, if it's over 2.260 it won't fit the magazines and needs to be singe loaded.

For a volume shooter, you need a progressive press. I still use a single stage press and do 100+ each night during the shooting season with ease. The powder dictates your success, the long grained powders don't measure very well in a progressive press and smaller grained powders are usually chosen (ball) small extruded ones.

So if it were me I would start with a single stage press you already have and learn the ropes and add all the bells and whistles (progressive) later.
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Old February 13, 2011, 10:36 PM   #8
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Hi Gamehog,

Regarding resizing fired brass, I went to partial resizing some 20 years ago. It's just one of the things that make the groups a little tighter for me, and it works the brass a bit less. The benchrest crowd may have tighter chamber dimensions in their high dollar rifles, so may not benefit from anything other than full length resizing.
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Old February 13, 2011, 11:34 PM   #9
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For an AR-15 you need to full length re-size or you may regret that decision to not do it in time. For the average reloader for the AR-15 it's necessary for success.
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Old February 14, 2011, 04:48 PM   #10
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The benchrest crowd often has custom dies cut from blanks to match their chambers. It's full-length sizing, but not to produce a round that will fit just any old SAAMI compliant chamber out there, the way a standard FL sizing die does. There is a lot of discussion of bumping shoulders back just 0.001" with the special dies, so apparently they don't move the brass much. It's a different game from conventional reloading. Someone had a world record group standing for a number of years who just used a Lee Loader for his ammunition, and that tool sizes only the neck.

For the AR, though, you can only run your single-loaded slow fire rounds without conventional or sometimes even small base die sizing. Even then, in order to avoid slamfires, it seems to me that Glen Zediker was advising a 0.002" shoulder setback. I'd have to double-check that, though.
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Old February 14, 2011, 05:26 PM   #11
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I do the case prep a la Unclenick (clean, size, clean, trim, prime) and then remove stage 1 from my 550 and run them through. Its not precision ammo but my little M4 mousegun likes 'em.
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Old February 14, 2011, 06:02 PM   #12
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For my AR-15 and Mini-14, I do all my case prep as Unclenick suggests as well (single stage size, trim, and then hand prime). When cases are prepped I load in runs of 200 on a Lee Pro-1000 charging at the first die (Pro Auto-Disk), seating at the second, and then run the factory crimp at the third die to finish the round. Works well enough for me, and the only problems I've ever had are slam fires which switching to Wolf magnum primers and paying closer attention to seating depth seem to have resolved.
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Old February 15, 2011, 08:10 PM   #13
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Is it safe/adviseable to use .223 rem dies with 5.56mm NATO brass? My local gun shop will give me a good deal on some Lake City (match? I think that's what he said) brass, I'm pretty sure it's 5.56mm NATO. I'm thinking of getting a small base resizing die and a taper crimp seating die. Make sense?
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Old February 16, 2011, 07:58 PM   #14
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It works fine. Both .223 Remington and 5.56 NATO have the same new case dimensions, the .223 being the civilian version of the 5.56 NATO. If the brass is once-fired, though, and has been through a different gun, especially a full-auto weapon, it is not uncommon for it to be stretched to the point you need to use a small base die on it the first time you size it. Once it has been fired in your chamber, though, the standard die usually works. Once in awhile you get an AR that just has to have it go through a small base die every time, but that's an exception and it suggests the rifle is stretching brass pretty hard on extraction itself and might be a candidate for a smaller gas port.
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Old February 16, 2011, 10:29 PM   #15
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yup, all above good advice, FL die will be the ticket and for my varmint gun gets a match die, good advice is if and when you get a bolt .223 use different brass or use magic marker and mark the bottom of the brass that will be used for one or the other.
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Old February 17, 2011, 12:29 AM   #16
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I just started reloading for AR-15 and 700 SPS Tactical. This is my first venture into handloading for rifles, so I don't have the experience some the guys have but here is my routine:

• Clean brass (I use different brands for the AR and bolt gun, to avoid possible confusion)
• Lube
• Size (full length for AR, neck only for bolt)
• Trim (and all the associated work)
• Clean again

Then primer, charge powder and seat bulllet as desired.

To answer the OP's question about what kind of press, so far, I'm just using my single stage to do the work, and it's just fine. I have an RCBS Chargemaster to weigh charges, so things move smoothly with "only" a single stage.

The only reason I'd use my progressive (Hornady LNL AP) would be to produce lots of plinking ammo for the AR-15. Even with a progressive, you still need to address the case prep issues–it's not like loading for pistol calibers.
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Old March 7, 2011, 09:05 PM   #17
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Alright, FINALLY bought the .223 today. Rock River Arms ar-15, got a red-dot sight, front rails, Hogue grip, and 200 rounds of Remington 55gn. for $1.98 shy of $1,000 (guess I should consider that a bargain considering I paid $1,200 for a Rohrbaugh R9 years ago, and it fits in a small pocket....).
Only shot 30 rounds today, but at approx. 50 yards standing, and only bore-sighted, almost all within tennis ball size. This is gonna be fun, and it looks cool.
Hope I don't neglect my handguns now...
Oh, more stuff to buy now, .223 dies, different powders and primers, shellplate, case trimmer, duh, duh, duh,.....it don't end, does it?
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Old March 24, 2011, 03:14 PM   #18
steve1147
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OK, ordering the stuff, powder suggestions?

Have had a couple weeks to learn the AR and after 400 rounds, I have enough brass to justify reloading.
As I mentioned earlier, I have two Lee pro1000 presses and two RCBS single stage. After all your advice, I've decided to start out the .223's single stage only.
I'm ordering from Midway the Lee 3-piece deluxe die set, the FCD, some lube and lube pad, a case gauge and hand trimmer, along with 55gn fmj bullets. I"m startin' out slow.
I have both a balance and digital scale, and a powder trickler. I'm gonna be careful with these. Like I said, loaded tens of thousands for handguns, this rifle stuff is all new!
What's your opinions on powder and loads? I'm not a benchrest kinda guy, I use a red-dot/laser and like to blow-up jugs of water and stale cans of plain label beer.
Thanks! Steve W.
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Old March 24, 2011, 04:03 PM   #19
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For 55 grain bullets I like to use H-335. Nostler has it listed as most acurate powder tested at a charge of 25.0 grains. I loaded a few at lower, to a slight bit higher than 25.0 grains to make sure the load was safe in my rifle. What I found was a huge sweet spot on my rifle of half a grain either way on the charge scale with consitantly tight groups where the POI and POA matched up perfectly.

Note for a nice cool show of jugs of water blowing up try using some Hornady V-Max. They make a heck of a show. I load the 55 grain V-Max the same COL, and charge weight as 55 FMJBT. The load shoots way more acurately whan I am capable of milking out of it.
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Old March 24, 2011, 07:32 PM   #20
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For blasting ammo I like TAC pushing whatever bulk 55 FMJ I can find cheap.
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Old March 24, 2011, 08:15 PM   #21
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For 55gr loads, 25.0gr of Hodgdon H-335 works great. I've seen it mentioned more than a few times on this site and others.

For heavier bullets (like 68/69gr and 75/77gr), I like Ramshot TAC. It meters well, and has given me excellent accuracy in my Colt LE6920.
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Old March 25, 2011, 09:57 AM   #22
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Interestingly, I started loading my .223 ARs with H335 and naturally used it for my bolt action and was pleased with it until I tried H4895.

In my CZ 527, out of the 13 best loads across 45 to 65 grain bullets, H4895 owns 12 of the best loads now (10 are under 0.45 inches on average). The sole survivor for H335 is for a 63 grain Sierra bullet and it is a dandy at 0.409average. H4895 shot the same bullet to an average of 0.421. Not a great difference but enough to give the H335 the edge. Most of the other loads, the H4895 was more than 0.1 better.

So to keep from writing a log post, H4895 has pushed H335 out as my favorite powder with the .223 bolt action.

My ARs aren't accurate enough to see that kind of difference.
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Old March 25, 2011, 07:21 PM   #23
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Be aware not all case lub is created equal. I would recommend RCBS Case Lube II. It will wipe off with a damp rag.
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Old March 25, 2011, 11:16 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m&p45acp10+1
For 55 grain bullets I like to use H-335. Nostler has it listed as most acurate powder tested at a charge of 25.0 grains. I loaded a few at lower, to a slight bit higher than 25.0 grains to make sure the load was safe in my rifle. What I found was a huge sweet spot on my rifle of half a grain either way on the charge scale with consitantly tight groups where the POI and POA matched up perfectly.

Note for a nice cool show of jugs of water blowing up try using some Hornady V-Max. They make a heck of a show. I load the 55 grain V-Max the same COL, and charge weight as 55 FMJBT. The load shoots way more acurately whan I am capable of milking out of it.
Yes and heck yes!

OP, if you do your load development correctly, you'll find a spot where the powder trickler is 100% not needed. And yeah, AMAX and VMAX blow stuff up good.

I really want to try H335, H4895, Varget, TAC, BLC-2, and XBR-8208. Right now I have a TON of Xterminator I got for like $10/lb, and some TAC.

For case lube, I dissolve Lee Case Lube paste into industrial denatured alcohol, in a spray bottle. I dump the cases into a gallon ziplock, spray them down, shake, spray again. They size like butter!
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Old March 26, 2011, 11:28 AM   #25
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Steve1147,

Check out Dan Newberry's OCW load development method. He intentionally looks for loads that are insensitive to charge weight over a span of 1.4% to 2% of charge or so. By loading for the center charge weight of such a load, you can use a powder dispenser that throws about +/- 0.3 grains and they will all still shoot to the same POI.

A number of powder dispensers may be acquired that throw charges of spherical propellents to within a tenth of a grain. Sticks are more problematic, because of grain cutting by most measures that upsets the powder flow. But stick powders ignite better and the coarse sticks, especially, are less likely to give you a touchy load. I like the JDS Quick Measure for stick powder. It dispenses stick powder to within a promised 0.2 grains, and often does better than that. It's design prevents grain cutting from occurring at all, and it can be adapted to progressive loaders if you are working on a significant volume of ammunition.
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