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Old August 18, 2011, 09:39 AM   #1
Uncle Buck
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Brass Failure

People have asked how many times they could reload a piece of brass before it fails or is no good.

I love the .45 Colt and that is what I mainly shoot. I have some .45 Colt brass that has been reloaded twelve times.

I finally got a case failure on a piece of RP Brass that was on its eleventh reload. This is the first case failure that I have had in this caliber. I load mild, just a little about the cowboy action stuff. Nice little split down the side of the case.

This case came from a batch of 200 that I had loaded up. None of the other brass seems to be affected.

I think I have gotten my moneys worth out of that piece.

(I have had .38 special and .357 Magnum failures, but it was with brass that was bought used. I have no way of know how many times it had been reloaded before I had gotten the cases.)
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Old August 18, 2011, 09:48 AM   #2
Mike Irwin
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I've got some .38 Special and .45 ACP brass that is at, or past, 50 loadings.
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Old August 18, 2011, 10:04 AM   #3
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From that description I'd say that it was an imperfection in the brass.Yes it happens sometimes.
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Old August 18, 2011, 10:34 AM   #4
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Remington .45 ACP brass was always thin and hard and got brittle fast. I quit bothering to pick it up long ago. I never got more than a dozen loads out of it either, and often even fewer as it would work harden to the point my standard sizing die no longer squeezed it down enough to hold a bullet. But, like Mike, I've got cases with over 50 reloads through them. These are old Winchester brass and Starline and Top Brass. I recommend both Starline and Top Brass purchased new for handloading as both have about half the dimensional and weight variation of other brands I've measured and both are still made domestically.
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Old August 18, 2011, 10:36 AM   #5
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Buck, I too share your interest with 45 Colt. When I started loading the 45 many years ago, I used RP & WW because that was all that was available. I was lucky to get 7 loads per case. I never loaded hot; the brass was thin since the 45 was a low pressure number anyway.
Several years ago, I switched to Starline brass, I have some cases I have loaded 15 times. I have yet to see cracks as I have with RP & WW. IMHO, Starline is superior to the others at least in 45Colt.
Although, I rarely go hot with the 45 Colt, I have loaded some warm loads for my old model Vaquero and the Starline brass has not failed.
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Old August 18, 2011, 12:25 PM   #6
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Uncle Buck:
A long time ago I conducted and experiment with twenty five rounds of Remington .41 magnum brass. I took my reloading equipment to the range. My objective was to shoot and reload them untill they failed. This was in the 1960's and I have lost my notes. The best that I can remember is the first case neck spllit on its seventh reloading and the last split on about the seventeenth reloading. The whole lot gave me about 385 reloads.

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Old August 18, 2011, 12:46 PM   #7
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My .45 Colt brass always gets stuffed with a full load of FFFg black powder that I slightly compress with a 250 grain lead bullet. It's a handful to shoot, but I'm up to 25 loadings with some of this brass now. No problems with splitting so far even though the headstamp lettering is becoming very faint.
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Old August 18, 2011, 04:01 PM   #8
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This occured recently on the first loading of RP new brass I bought about 1971 and had not used. Abnormality. Didn't even know it when I shot it. The other 49 have been loaded about four times so far, and no problems.
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Old August 18, 2011, 06:50 PM   #9
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45 ACP brass here loaded 12 times already and still going strong.
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Old August 18, 2011, 08:41 PM   #10
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I actually had a .357 case pull into on the carbide sizing die. Just pulled right into about center ways. Never quite seen that particular failure before. I started using the lube pad again to twirl the very end of the case lightly to get a small 1/16" ring of lube around the case neck. With a carbide die this makes sizing a .357 case feel like it is a .22 magnum case. I now do all my long cases this way, it makes a 45 Colt feel like a 45 ACP in a steel die with lube. BTW I have not had a case failure on my 45 Colt shooting through the RedHawk. MAX loads all the time and the cases just keep going.
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Old August 18, 2011, 11:25 PM   #11
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I lost a 44 Mag SuperVel case this year but still have the other 19 so in 20+ years of using these cases. Each one has had at least 50 reloads. When the last one fails I might write about it if I'm still here
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Old August 19, 2011, 08:04 AM   #12
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When hand loading strait wall revolver cases, many people will have the tendency to over-flare and over-crimp. This along with normal sizing and firing over works the mouth of the case. If a person does not over-flare and over-crimp, and anneals the lot of the cases when the first one has a mouth split, the rest of the cases can have their useful life extended greatly. When the first one splits, it is almost a certainty that the rest of the lot have also become brittle in the mouth area.
Note on crimping: Look at a factory round to see how much crimp is required...very little. Do not use any more that you have to to keep the bullets from backing out under recoil...it over-works the brass unnecessarily.
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Old August 19, 2011, 08:52 AM   #13
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"many people will have the tendency to over-flare and over-crimp."

Bingo.

Taper crimping isn't nearly as bad as roll crimping, but it still stresses the case mouth.
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Old August 19, 2011, 10:25 AM   #14
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These conversations on crimp make me think of a flatland Yugo owner, trying to tell a Montana cowboy how many horsepower he needs to pull his 36 foot stock trailer up a five-mile grade.

The amount of crimp needed varies according to application and this is particularly relevant with range of guns, power levels and bullet weights available to .45 Colt users.

But the crimp serves necessary purpose and it is but one stressing factor in the eventual and unavoidable failure of straight-wall cases. As Buck noted-

Quote:
I finally got a case failure on a piece of RP Brass that was on its eleventh reload. This is the first case failure that I have had in this caliber. I load mild, just a little about the cowboy action stuff. Nice little split down the side of the case.
Longitudinal splits are a fact of life. If you're getting them at the neck, then belling and crimping are contributing factors. If you're getting them halfway down the case, the generous chambers common in these guns is probably another one. I know guys running near-.454-level loads in custom 5 shot cylinders bored with minimum chamber dimensions. They are enjoying good case longevity despite the fact that they, quite necessarily, crimp with living hell out of those loads to keep 330+ grain bullets from walking out and tying up their cylinders.

The fact is, if you are getting nearly a dozen uses out of any straight wall pistol case- you're doing just fine. If your loads are doing what you ask of them, don't change a thing.
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Old August 19, 2011, 01:26 PM   #15
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Quote:
The amount of crimp needed varies according to application and this is particularly relevant with range of guns, power levels and bullet weights available to .45 Colt users.
According to hand loading manuals, "...a prudent hand loader will rely on factory loads for maximum or near maximum loads..." When one actually looks at factory loads in .357 magnum, .41 magnum, .44 magnum, et. Al., one will see that despite being loaded to "near maximum", they seem to have very little crimp. Nevertheless, the crimp they do have would seem sufficient in light of the fact that one does not hear of complaints of bullets backing out of cases when firing factory loads. Unless I have missed something (I am sure that you will tell me if I have), the slight crimp used by the factory is, therefore, enough and the proper amount.
It is notable that "bullet pull" is not dependent upon the crimp alone (if at all), but with the tension provided by tight fit between the bullet and the neck of the cartridge case.
My experiments with bullet crimping, forming a slight crimp despite the huge crimping groove on a Keith-type bullet, that even with very heavy loads, a light crimp keeps the bullets from backing out of the cases...and that is the purpose of a crimp on revolver cases.
So, feel free to have at me and correct my ignorance. If a slight crimp keeps the bullet in place, why make a heavy crimp?
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Old August 19, 2011, 01:34 PM   #16
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Quote:
Longitudinal splits are a fact of life. If you're getting them at the neck, then belling and crimping are contributing factors. If you're getting them halfway down the case, the generous chambers common in these guns is probably another one.
Again we disagree. When one anneals cases that have been deprimed and set in water about half way up the case, not only the case mouth (where the crack usually starts), but some of the length of the case is also annealed somewhat. Those longitudinal splits are not a fact of life for me, except in .38 Special inasmuch as I do not bother to anneal them in an attempt to save them...I just toss them and get more. However, in .357, .41, and .44 Magnums, it gives a new lease on life to anneal them as I have posted.
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Old August 19, 2011, 01:40 PM   #17
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"If your loads are doing what you ask of them, don't change a thing."
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Old August 19, 2011, 01:41 PM   #18
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Dahermit,

Taking your posts in reverse: Some guys have gone to putting timers on hand-held induction heating tools to get very rapid annealing done. Don't even need water. However, where you have water, be aware that thermal conductivity of brass is high enough that it is unlikely any of the wet portion sees stress relief, nor even does it a short distance above the water line. Brass has to get to about 250°C (482°F) for grain refinement to begin, and water will be boiling off its surface long before it gets there if you really have enough heat to drive it to the water line.

Regarding crimps, it depends on the gun and grip. A friend of mine who's also an Orange Hat family member got one of the titanium short barrel .45 Colts about the time Jeff Cooper got his to play with. He quickly found he could not shoot any commercial 250 grain bullet load in it without bullets backing out (and this is a big guy with big hands firmly behind the thing). If he shoots 200's he's good to go. He has to load his own 250's so he can put more crimp on them to prevent the problem. Folks with a lighter grip may experience the same issue even in somewhat heavier guns.
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Old August 19, 2011, 07:03 PM   #19
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Quote:
Regarding crimps, it depends on the gun and grip. A friend of mine who's also an Orange Hat family member got one of the titanium short barrel .45 Colts about the time Jeff Cooper got his to play with. He quickly found he could not shoot any commercial 250 grain bullet load in it without bullets backing out (and this is a big guy with big hands firmly behind the thing). If he shoots 200's he's good to go. He has to load his own 250's so he can put more crimp on them to prevent the problem.
I am not saying that it could not be a problem in some rare, and unusual situations. That is why I listed .357, .41, .44 Magnums...the most common (not the current trend in masochistic hand cannons), of the hand loaded, strait wall cases.

Quote:
Folks with a lighter grip may experience the same issue even in somewhat heavier guns.
May experience? Has it been happening?

It is notable the even the heaviest of bullets 500 grains plus, in the biggest of the cases, .458 Winchester Magnum, .460 Weatherby, etc. only have very modest crimps...not like the case killer crimps often put on Keith-type cast handgun bullets because Elmer did things in an excessive way. Elmer was of the opinion that a "heavy crimp" was needed. But, factory crimps (very light), have shown that they are not required and they dramatically shorten case life.

We should perhaps have a poll that asks the question: Have you ever had a bullet back out of a case when you applied a slight crimp?
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Old August 19, 2011, 07:30 PM   #20
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Quote:
It is notable the even the heaviest of bullets 500 grains plus, in the biggest of the cases, .458 Winchester Magnum, .460 Weatherby, etc. only have very modest crimps...
And, the cartridges you are using as examples are also fired in significantly heavier weapons, that have a shoulder stock to further dampen recoil. Having the rifle pressed against the body does a lot for reducing the rifle's acceleration speed.


Quote:
We should perhaps have a poll that asks the question: Have you ever had a bullet back out of a case when you applied a slight crimp?
My answer would be "yes". With reloads, and factory ammo.
Some firearms (especially light weight pocket revolvers) just have quick acceleration under recoil, and tend to force bullets to jump crimp.
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Old August 19, 2011, 07:31 PM   #21
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I load & shoot a lot of 45 Colt (SASS). My initial supply was Remington cases, which I have loaded (medium crimp) 15 times with very little case loss, usually a wall split. I bought Starline to replace it but haven't needed to as yet. BTW, in over 50 years of loading mild to MAX in 357 and 44 Mag, I have never had a bullet jump the case.
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Old August 19, 2011, 08:07 PM   #22
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I am sitting here looking at a .458 Win Mag, which I believe is a reload. It was one of about 15 I bought at an estate sale (Some of them were .375 H&H cases loaded with .458 bullets, some were .458 Win Mag cases loaded with .458 bullets.) It has NO crimp. Looking at from the front and side you can barely see the cannula in the bullet. From the side it is covered up.
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Old August 19, 2011, 09:10 PM   #23
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I used to load a lot of .44 Mag with 300 grain Hunters Supply LBTs and enough W296 to kiss the base of the bullet, when seated in the crimping groove. When fired from a 4" Model 29-2, they could be counted upon to jump crimp unless the case mouth was buried in the bottom of that groove. Neck tension was not an issue; I had turned the expander button down 0.003 and there was plenty of neck tension. Inertia was the issue. In that application, it simply required more crimp to overcome it.
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Old August 19, 2011, 09:24 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dahermit
May experience? Has it been happening?
Let me make it clear that by heavier, I meant heavier than the titanium gun, not the heavy end of the revolver weight spectrum.

I don't think I've seen jacketed bullets back up in my guns, but they have a pretty good friction grip with the brass, so they aren't relying just on the crimp. Lubricated lead, though? I've had those back up in my 3" Charter Bulldog before. It was a 2400 load warm for the gun, and I recall my palm stinging a bit. But, yes, they backed up. Needed more crimp.

I'll suggest a rule of thumb: If you can push a seated bullet deeper into the case with your thumb before applying the crimp and the load is fairly stout and the gun not very heavy, then there's a good chance you need a firm crimp.

At the other end of the spectrum, I've shot lots of target wadcutters in .38 Special and .357 cases with nothing but a taper crimp and had no problem. The guns were not flyweights, though. I was never enamored of the snubbies.
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Old August 20, 2011, 06:03 AM   #25
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old, man

I'm still using some 357 cases, nickeled, that I bought in 1976.
They were used then.....

I use new cases ONLY when making social-use ammo, and stupids-n-nukes.
I use used cases for funzies.
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