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Old September 11, 2009, 11:29 AM   #1
300magman
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How many times can I reload brass

I'm about to become a reloader and among other questions, I'm wondering how many times I can reload the same brass. And I'm also wondering who's brass I should buy. There is the Very cheap remington, the still cheap winchester, then the more expensive norma and nosler? Can anyone give me suggestions on this...and I'm generally the type that errors on the side of quality or safety over a few pennies...but is some brass really worth 40% more than others?

Calibers to be loaded for are 22-250, 30.06, 300wim mag, 300wsm, and 300RUM ... possibly 223, 308, and 303 as well.
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Old September 11, 2009, 12:20 PM   #2
plainsman456
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I have shot some brass more times that I can count and I have some split after 2 or 3 firings.The stouter you load them the more likely the brass will not last long.As far as brands mostly I use Rem and Win, in both rifle and pistol.Good Luck
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Old September 11, 2009, 12:28 PM   #3
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How many and which kind...

300 Mag Man--This is a good question, and shows that you are doing some thinking and study before plunging into the reloading game--good on you for that!

Re: How many reloads you will get from a given piece of brass: The answer is: It varies. The main factors are the quality of the brass, the heaviness of the load, and whether you FL resize or neck-size only.

The higher quality brass (Norma, Lapua, Nosler) will probably outlast the rest. In "regular" brass, Winchester has a rep for lasting. Reloaders like the hi-quality brass for other reasons also: Less prep required, drilled not punched flash-holes, greater uniformity from case to case, necks come pre-annealed, etc.

Loading any brass "to the max" will shorten its usable life. The higher the pressure it has to endure, the faster it ages. Low-pressure loads are easier on the brass. As an aside, the greatest accuracy is usually not found at the top of the pressure scale for any given cartridge, though there are exceptions.

When you size brass, you flex it. Flexing brass ages the brass. Thus, FL sizing flexes the case more so than neck-sizing. Lee Precision claims (correctly, I believe) that their collet neck-sizing die flexes the brass even less than an "ordinary" neck-size die, which can lead to longer case life--in addition to straighter cases, another plus for accuracy.

Another factor is that some cartridges are inherently hard on brass and some are not--it's partially a function of the "normal" pressure range for the cartridge, and partially a function of the case design.

When I began reloading it was strictly for the saving of $$. I used any old range pick-up brass. Discovered early on that I could make better ammo than I could buy, and cheaper, too! Later I began sorting the brass by manufacturer because this seemed to enhance accuracy. Later yet I kept my brass in lots dedicated to a given rifle, and only used that one lot with that rifle (still do this!) Now I'm to the point of only using high-grade brass for my "serious" rifles, and I find that accuracy as well as brass life is enhanced. Most reloaders, I think, go through a similar progression.

Long's I have the floor, may I suggest an excellent "textbook" which will answer many of your questions: The ABC's of Reloading put out by Krause Publishing. www.krause.com It is what the title says, but more. Fine reference/textbook; belongs on every reloader's bookshelf, well thumbed, IMHO. They must be doing something right--The book is in its 7th edition.

Good luck in your reloading--Please keep us posted on your progress!
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Old September 11, 2009, 12:30 PM   #4
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Suggestion - Stay under max load

If you stay under max load you will greatly extend case life. If you prep your brass when you first get it (uniform primer pocket and flash hole) and trim to length, you will find lighter loads (just 2-3 grains below max) will significantly extend case life and the brass will not grow as much (less trimming). I usually get 8-12 firings on my 308 & 30-06 brass and doulble that if I am using low preasure cast bullet loads. With hangun brass using lite to mid-range loads, I get 20-30 firings. Neck sizing also extends case life.
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Old September 11, 2009, 12:44 PM   #5
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Regardless of caliber, or pressure, you should always anneal the shoulder and neck area of brass hi-power rifle casings when the become work hardened (usually every 3-5 firings, more often with high intensity cartridges). doing this will greatly extend the serviceable life of your casings. Hornady's reloading manual has a good beginners instruction on all the basics of reloading, including annealing brass.
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Old September 11, 2009, 01:01 PM   #6
Mike Irwin
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Quite literally until the brass fails, normally via a neck crack.

How many times that will be depends a LOT on how hot you load it, whether you anneal it or not, etc.

I have some .38s that I've loaded better than 50 times now. I have some .45s that are creeping up there, as well.
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Old September 11, 2009, 01:07 PM   #7
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I agree with all of the above, but will toss in some clarification. All rifle brass has its neck and shoulder annealed at the factory. Winchester and Remington and Norma polish off the oxide stain afterward, while Lapua does not and military brass does not, per a mil spec requirement. Unpolished brass turns out to be more corrosion resistant.

I use mostly Winchester brass. The brass alloy is very good and lasts a long time. That said, if I buy 1000 pieces of Winchester brass for a rifle caliber, after uniforming and trimming and sorting by weight, then checking wall runout with a NECO case gauge, only about 20% will pass my dimensional consistency parameters for long range target shooting (500-1000 yards). The worst 20% will be set aside for firelapping, plinking loads, close range hunting, and other odd jobs. The middle 60% will be for match or hunting out to 400 yards.

I mentioned the above because if I shell out big money Lapua or Norma cases, I never have to reject a single one. It all passes for 500-1000 yard shooting, and I have used it for 600 yards. For 800-1000 yards, I still use Winchester, despite all the selecting work, because it has a little more powder capacity to help keep the bullet supersonic from a .308.

For .30-06 I've used a lot of Lake City brass I collected over the years and some Remington because, 20 years ago, anyway, Remington came closest among commercial cases to matching the capacity of the Lake City, and that meant a load I developed in one could be used with the other. I have not checked recent manufacture Remington to see if that's still true?

So, from all that, as you can guess, the brass you pick depends on your purpose. If you're unsure what to get, just post it.

I've had target level light loads (3.8 grains of Bullseye, 185 or 200 grain LSWC) in .45 ACP give me as much as 50 reloadings from Winchester cases, though a lot of the headstamp was kind of hard to read by then and the rims were pretty ratty. Benchrest shooters can sometimes squeeze that much out of rifle brass, but they neck size only and anneal regularly and carefully. This article by Dr. Ken Howell is one of the best I've seen on how to do it. If you full-length resize rifle brass and don't anneal, they may be cracking necks in relatively few reloadings. I would say six is pretty typical for service rifle loads that aren't too hot and are not annealed. With proper annealing you double to triple that.
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Old September 11, 2009, 01:18 PM   #8
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May I suggest that you start with some inexpensive brass and learn with that? You are likely to do some things that shorten case life before you learn how to get it all right. May as well do that with brass that isn't very expensive.

Pushing the shoulder back too much on a bottleneck case is one sure way to shorten brass life, because each firing allows it to stretch again, and that stretching occurs down near the web on the case wall. You can separate a case head in as little as 3 firings if you get this too far off, no matter how much you paid for the brass.

Also, let me suggest that you do NOT attempt to anneal cases until you have gained more experience. Annealing wrong will ruin the brass right then, without firing it again.

One more observation: if you decide to use range pick-up brass, try to get batches that are the same. Brass from differnt makers cah vary a lot in its internal capacity, which would really get confusing for you as you try to work-up loads. Frankly, at this point, I think you would be better-served by using new brass or brass from facrory loads fired in YOUR gun to work-up your loads, and use any range-pick-ups for testing die set-ups, case trimmers, etc.

Once you know how to measure case capacities, check for insipient head separations, etc., then using range-pick-ups for loads is OK so long as you are not looking for maximum accuracy or trying to estimate pressures from case dimensions.

Some of the articles I have seem where VERY extensive testing was done to produce optimum loads for highly accurate rifles have shown that some of the "cheaper" brass equalled the expensive brass for accuracy and longevity.

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Old April 23, 2010, 11:03 AM   #9
Capndave
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how many times?

Like the fellas say it depends on the quality of the brass you use and the manner in which you load it.Neck sizing definitly helps to increase the number of times they can be used.I choose Lapua,metallurgically it is very good brass.I use 42.5 gr of 4895 w/Sierra 168 gr BTHP w/210m primer for my .308.Ive seen 15 good loads before I toss them.Quality of components is so key when seeking optimum accuracy.More importantly educate yourself, read books, do reasearch,I read three books from different authors before I even priced gear for the task.

Last edited by Capndave; April 23, 2010 at 11:11 AM.
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Old April 23, 2010, 05:39 PM   #10
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Quote:
How many times can I reload brass?
Until it fails.
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Old April 23, 2010, 10:01 PM   #11
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Rifle brass will last a lot longer if you do not oversize the stuff. It is worth getting a cartridge headspace gage in each caliber and measure just how much you are pushing back the shoulder.



Because I shoot all my 223, 308, and 30-06 in a multitude of rifles, I size that stuff to gage minimum. But if I was reloading for one rifle, heck push the shoulder back .003” and you are good to go

The instructions you get with sizing dies, to turn the die to the shell holder and add a quarter turn, are totally hit and miss. You will find that out once you start gaging your ammo.

The difference between Go and No Go is this .006” ledge. Think your brass will fall in-between this by randomly screwing the die down?
.

There are troglodytes who will fight you to the death claiming they can. But what the heck to they know?, you can't teach a cave man new tricks.

You have a belted magnum. I hate belted magnums. The base to shoulder length is not controlled in the things. The only dimension that is standard is the belt headspace. Full length resizing belted magnums often leads to case head separations because you don’t know and have a hard time measuring the proper shoulder set back. Sinclair makes a special belted magnum cartridge headspace gage. Used to be a $40.00 item. Find the thing and set your shoulder back about .003”

Once you get the overall shoulder distance set, if your shoulders are not pushed back more than gage minimum, you can fire rifle brass an amazing number of times. The lifetime of rifle brass will then be determined by case neck splits, body splits, and the size of primer pockets.

I took one set of 308 brass 22 or24 reloads. Full power national match loads. Never had a case head separation, I tossed cases that had neck cracks and body splits. I finally retired the brass because the primer pockets were getting too loose.
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Old April 29, 2010, 10:35 AM   #12
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Five Reloads Max for Semi-Autos?

I am enjoying and learning from this thread and wish to expand the discussion slightly. I have reloaded for about ten years, mostly for bolt guns, but have reloaded a fair amount for AR's, M1A, M1 Garrand and M1C. I have read from numerous sources that for an semi-auto rifle you should toss cases after the fifth reload. What is magical about five reloads? If you carefully inspect the cases before each reloading wouldn't it be safe to continue reloading them, as for a bolt gun? I keep each 20 or 50 cases separated by box and meticulously maintain records of the number of reloads for each.
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Old April 29, 2010, 10:41 AM   #13
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That's what's called a rule of thumb.

People have, over the years I guess, found that five and toss is a good rule of thumb.

Your mileage, so to speak, may vary.
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Old April 29, 2010, 11:54 AM   #14
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Thanks Mike, that's what I figured. Do you look for anything special when inspecting brass fired in your AR15 after, say, five reloads? If it looks just like any other brass after five reloads would you continue reloading it? Another variation of this is, "What seems to fail in brass fired in a semi-auto that has caused that low number Rule of Thumb to have been established?"
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Old April 29, 2010, 04:41 PM   #15
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Do a search for "case head separation or split neck".
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Old April 29, 2010, 05:08 PM   #16
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Well, a split neck and certainly a case head separation would be an obvious reason to toss a piece of brass. I am assuming from your answer that short of those signs a 223/5.56 case, closely examined after a 5th, 6th, 7th, etc. reload in an AR15 could be reloaded again; just as if it had been fired in a bolt gun. I am just trying to find out if there is some special, mysterious stress put on a case fired in a semi-auto rifle, that leaves no visual signs but makes it unwise to use the same criteria for case life, that you would use if it had been fired and reloaded for a bolt rifle numerous times. I full length size for my semi-autos and mostly neck size for bolt guns, fully realizing the FL process causes less case life, but that is observable to an experienced reloader. I appreciate your thoughtful opinion on this.
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Old April 29, 2010, 06:36 PM   #17
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If you do a search for "case head separation" you'll read about the paper clip trick.
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Old April 29, 2010, 08:10 PM   #18
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Sorry, I don't reload for .223 at this time.

I've got a TON of surplus ammo. At some point I probably will, but not now.
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Old April 30, 2010, 08:42 AM   #19
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Thanks to all. Yes, I know the paper clip trick; a really easy and positive way to verify whether that "shiny ring" above the head is a problem or just a mark left by the die. Before I learned it, and when I had just begun reloading, I tossed probably 100 of my once-fired 243W because after FL sizing I noticed the dreaded shiny ring. Lessons learned but better safe than sorry.
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Old April 30, 2010, 08:19 PM   #20
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Quote:
I tossed probably 100 of my once-fired 243W because after FL sizing I noticed the dreaded shiny ring.
My wife tossed a bag of about 300, 243Win brass she found in the closet. I imagine them in the land fill just waiting to be discovered.
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