The Firing Line Forums

Go Back   The Firing Line Forums > The Skunkworks > Handloading, Reloading, and Bullet Casting

Reply
 
Thread Tools
Old April 12, 2013, 03:19 AM   #1
Derius_T
Senior Member
 
Join Date: November 29, 2004
Location: South West OHIO (boondocks)
Posts: 1,337
Reloading steel berdan cases...

I know most people will say it can't or shouldn't be done, or that it is too difficult to do, but I have been doing a ton of research lately, and I think it is easier than once stated.

It seems that there is an extremely reliable, and very simple method to remove the old berdan primers with hydraulic pressure. That was what the largest stink seemed to be. Also, berdan primers are available for very cheap, in fact cheaper than boxer primers. I have seen them for less than $30/1000 shipped, and readily available in large quantities.

That takes care of the two biggest gripes, and hurdles to berdan reloading. I understand from this point it is the exact same as reloading boxer brass?

Next, I have also heard many to say that the cheaper steel cases can not be reloaded, but I have seen several videos and tutorials where the steel cases are reloaded easily and successfully. In fact, they were said to be easier than reloading brass (when using berdan primers) because they do not stretch and therefore do not require trimming or several other steps required when using brass?

Does anyone have any information or experience with this issue? Also, if the berdan primers are readily available, cheaper, and just as easy to reload, why does no one do it in the US? The rest of the known world does it in great quantities, why don't we?

A source of reliable, cheap ammunition would be amazing right now in the current climate. If it can be manufactured (or reloaded) using berdan materials, without all the headaches associated with trying to retrofit berdan cases with boxer primers, why is it not done?

I am only repeating what I have seen and read recently. I have no first hand information. I got interested in it when I was researching reloading in general, and found out that the berdan primer and case was developed by an American, but used everywhere but America, and the boxer primer and case was developed by an Englishman, but used almost exclusively in the USA.

Edit to add: one thing that has completely stumped me so far is where to buy empty steel unfired cases. I know you can probably collect as much as you care to from ranges and such, as most people see it as useless and don't bother to even pick it up, but what about a source for unfired berdan steel cases?

Last edited by Derius_T; April 12, 2013 at 03:57 AM.
Derius_T is offline  
Old April 12, 2013, 04:24 AM   #2
Fire_Moose
Senior Member
 
Join Date: January 16, 2013
Posts: 206
Re: Reloading steel berdan cases...

Never heard of unforeseen berdan cases. Are berdan primers readily.available?
Fire_Moose is offline  
Old April 12, 2013, 05:52 AM   #3
steveno
Senior Member
 
Join Date: June 18, 2004
Location: Minden , Nebraska
Posts: 1,292
when I first started reloading close to 50 years ago with the 303 British was the depriming part using the RCBS (maybe it was made by Huntington)depriming tool. you had to be careful and hope you didn't ruin the anvil in the bottom of the primer pocket. putting the new primer in isn't a problem if you can find a good supply of Berdan primers. just remember that the Berdan primer comes in a number of sizes. you can't believe how happy I was when the hardware store where I bought the military ammo started getting in ammo that had boxer primers in it. the Berdan primed brass went into the trash. I don't know about loading steel cases but with berdan primers it is a waste of time.
steveno is offline  
Old April 12, 2013, 06:16 AM   #4
Shootest
Senior Member
 
Join Date: February 9, 2011
Location: Just outside Cleveland, Ohio
Posts: 652
Steel cases are not as pliable as brass, thus they are harder on dies and will not hold up to numerous reloads. They will crack long before brass. I think once you start loading steel cases you will find out why it is not generally done.
__________________
The private ownership of firearms is an American Heritage. Anyone who disputes that is Anti-American and unpatriotic.
NRA Life Member
Shootest is offline  
Old April 12, 2013, 07:04 AM   #5
Derius_T
Senior Member
 
Join Date: November 29, 2004
Location: South West OHIO (boondocks)
Posts: 1,337
I understand that you only get two to three reliable reloads from the steel cases. That said, you can generally pick up all the steel cases you want free from most ranges, as they are glad to get rid of them, but you can only get small quantities.

If you have clean steel berdan cases, and berdan primers, then it is theoretically no different than loading brass they claim. The problem for many years has been that it was very time consuming and unreliable to remove the old primers, and that berdan primers were all but non existent in the US. Now both of those problems have been readily solved.

If 2/3 of the worlds manufacturers have no problem with berdan cases or primers, and make millions of rounds extremely cheap, why can't we?

I have done a cost analysis in my head, and not counting the cost of the reloading equipment, reliable steel cased rounds can be reloaded with lead for around $.10 a round, and jacketed for around $.20 a round.

That in itself makes me want to take a look into it. What I don't understand is why I have encountered so much resistance, if not outright hosility from a majority of reloaders when I start talking about berdan reloads....??? (not from anyone here)
Derius_T is offline  
Old April 12, 2013, 07:22 AM   #6
steveno
Senior Member
 
Join Date: June 18, 2004
Location: Minden , Nebraska
Posts: 1,292
I think the major difference is that the ammo companys that load berdan primed ammo have a lot of money spent in the production equipment. they are also not concerned about people using their cases for reloading ammo. if you assure yourself of a good supply of primers and consistantly good cases go for it. I shot some of the Hornady steel cased ammo and it shot preetty good but I'm pretty sure they didn't tool up to make steel cases so they had somebody else make them. I think we are lucky that the brass cases that we use are generally pretty high quality and I wonder if that translates to the companys that do steel cases.
steveno is offline  
Old April 12, 2013, 07:24 AM   #7
mdmtj
Member
 
Join Date: March 4, 2013
Posts: 71
Quote:
If 2/3 of the worlds manufacturers have no problem with berdan cases or primers, and make millions of rounds extremely cheap, why can't we?
The issues involved in new manufacture and reloading are very different. There is a lot of difference between pressing a Berdan primer into a new case on an assembly line and removing that primer from the used case in my shop.
mdmtj is offline  
Old April 12, 2013, 09:21 AM   #8
jmorris
Senior Member
 
Join Date: November 22, 2006
Posts: 1,666
Quote:
I know most people will say it can't or shouldn't be done, or that it is too difficult to do, but I have been doing a ton of research lately, and I think it is easier than once stated.
Anything is possible and once you have the proper equipment and technique can be done quickly.

Reloading any case be it steel or aluminum is not wise, from what I have seen. Certainly not worth it for me as brass cases are more common to pick up off the ground around here than Pecans.
jmorris is offline  
Old April 12, 2013, 09:30 AM   #9
Brian Pfleuger
Staff
 
Join Date: June 25, 2008
Location: Central, Southern NY, USA
Posts: 18,791
The issue with steel cases has nothing to do with Berdan primers so much as it does the fact that the cases are steel. They don't stretch and size the way brass does and that's not a POSITIVE thing. It's a bad thing.

Think about it. Steel is much, much cheaper than brass. If it was a good material for making cases, it would be used extensively.

Steel is like $750/ton, copper is $6,820/ton. Think about it.
__________________
Still happily answering to the call-sign Peetza.
---
The problem, as you so eloquently put it, is choice.
-The Architect
-----
He is no fool who gives what he can not keep to gain what he can not lose.
-Jim Eliott, paraphrasing Philip Henry.
Brian Pfleuger is offline  
Old April 12, 2013, 09:54 AM   #10
boondocker385
Senior Member
 
Join Date: March 6, 2013
Posts: 399
I seem to be missing the point.....if course it CAN be done but WHY would you?
boondocker385 is offline  
Old April 12, 2013, 10:19 AM   #11
Mike40-11
Senior Member
 
Join Date: January 8, 2005
Location: Missouri
Posts: 817
Agree with Brian. The material is the issue, not the primers. Steel cases wearing out your dies aren't really a worry as the steel used is pretty soft. Steel has 2 properties that work against it for reloading. 1, it's much more elastic than brass, meaning that under the same conditions it won't resize to the same dimensions in the same die. After being compressed there's a certain amount of springback. 2, it work hardens much more quickly than brass. This keeps it from expanding as readily in subsequent firings, meaning it may not seal the chamber as well. It also makes it much more likely to crack sooner.

Being an engineer, a certain amount of, ah, retentiveness, is an occupational hazard. If I really wanted to reload steel I would have to do some studies. Do I need a custom dimensioned die? Do I need to anneal the case? At what time and temp? Quenched or air cooled? Before sizing? After? Both? Any other heat treat needed to maintain the case head integrity?

I have no doubt that it can be and is done. But you can't simply substitute steel for brass with no changes in your method and results.
Mike40-11 is offline  
Old April 12, 2013, 12:34 PM   #12
Derius_T
Senior Member
 
Join Date: November 29, 2004
Location: South West OHIO (boondocks)
Posts: 1,337
Quote:
The issues involved in new manufacture and reloading are very different. There is a lot of difference between pressing a Berdan primer into a new case on an assembly line and removing that primer from the used case in my shop.
The primers can be removed very easily, and pressed back in with normal, everyday equipment. I don't see the difference. The hassle used to be that the primers were hard to get out, and new primers unavailable. That is no longer the case.
Derius_T is offline  
Old April 12, 2013, 12:37 PM   #13
Brian Pfleuger
Staff
 
Join Date: June 25, 2008
Location: Central, Southern NY, USA
Posts: 18,791
You're missing the point.

The primers are irrelevant.

Steel is a poor choice for reloadable cases.
__________________
Still happily answering to the call-sign Peetza.
---
The problem, as you so eloquently put it, is choice.
-The Architect
-----
He is no fool who gives what he can not keep to gain what he can not lose.
-Jim Eliott, paraphrasing Philip Henry.
Brian Pfleuger is offline  
Old April 12, 2013, 12:38 PM   #14
Derius_T
Senior Member
 
Join Date: November 29, 2004
Location: South West OHIO (boondocks)
Posts: 1,337
Quote:
The issue with steel cases has nothing to do with Berdan primers so much as it does the fact that the cases are steel. They don't stretch and size the way brass does and that's not a POSITIVE thing. It's a bad thing.

Think about it. Steel is much, much cheaper than brass. If it was a good material for making cases, it would be used extensively.

Steel is like $750/ton, copper is $6,820/ton. Think about it.
I understand what your saying, but from what I have seen with my own eyes, it is every bit as easy as loading brass. The only problem is, that the cases as you said are not flexible by nature, and after 2-3 reloads they often split or crack. That said, you still get 2-3 reloads for pennies. (especially considering what brass (any brass) is going for these days, if you can find it.

I understand many calibers and weapons systems have trouble with the steel cases, but I primarily shoot AK platforms, and they do not suffer from the same issues.
Derius_T is offline  
Old April 12, 2013, 12:52 PM   #15
Derius_T
Senior Member
 
Join Date: November 29, 2004
Location: South West OHIO (boondocks)
Posts: 1,337
Quote:
Agree with Brian. The material is the issue, not the primers. Steel cases wearing out your dies aren't really a worry as the steel used is pretty soft. Steel has 2 properties that work against it for reloading. 1, it's much more elastic than brass, meaning that under the same conditions it won't resize to the same dimensions in the same die. After being compressed there's a certain amount of springback. 2, it work hardens much more quickly than brass. This keeps it from expanding as readily in subsequent firings, meaning it may not seal the chamber as well. It also makes it much more likely to crack sooner.

Being an engineer, a certain amount of, ah, retentiveness, is an occupational hazard. If I really wanted to reload steel I would have to do some studies. Do I need a custom dimensioned die? Do I need to anneal the case? At what time and temp? Quenched or air cooled? Before sizing? After? Both? Any other heat treat needed to maintain the case head integrity?

I have no doubt that it can be and is done. But you can't simply substitute steel for brass with no changes in your method and results.
As I said, I am just in the process of learning, but there is alot of information out there now, and guys are successfully loading rounds with little trouble. As I understand it, Nothing at all needs to be done to the case, other than a bit of chamfering (sp?) on the inside edge. No annealing, treating, heat treating or any such. Just a short spin in walnut hulls to clean up, but not so long as to remove the poly coating.

I am finding the research very interested, and really can't wait to try it out. The two guys I have been talking to claim that they have reloaded thousands of 7.62 and there is very little prep work or changes to method. In fact, they claim it is so little work, that it is easy as brass, and loads cheaper. (although with the mentioned drawback of only being able to use the case a few times without case failure)

If I can get 2-3 good reloads out of the ammo, (and am only shooting in the AK) and save myself a metric ton of good money, and it is really as easy as suggested, then why not try it?
Derius_T is offline  
Old April 12, 2013, 12:57 PM   #16
Derius_T
Senior Member
 
Join Date: November 29, 2004
Location: South West OHIO (boondocks)
Posts: 1,337
Quote:
You're missing the point. The primers are irrelevant. Steel is a poor choice for reloadable cases.
I understand that, I truly do. However, if it is a viable "short term" reloading solution, and the rounds are as safe and effective as factory loads, (even if you only get one reload) isn't it worth looking into?

I understand that brass is, has been, and always will be superior, but if steel can be used reliably, at least in the short term, why not? $.10 a round as opposed to even $.50 a round with brass or arguably even higher, is pretty attractive for practice/plinking ammo...
Derius_T is offline  
Old April 12, 2013, 12:59 PM   #17
Brian Pfleuger
Staff
 
Join Date: June 25, 2008
Location: Central, Southern NY, USA
Posts: 18,791
Well, it sounds like you're bent on trying it for yourself. No harm. I think you're looking at it through rose colored glasses, though. Give it a try, have fun. I think you'll find out why there's "two guys" you're talking to and not a whole bunch more.
__________________
Still happily answering to the call-sign Peetza.
---
The problem, as you so eloquently put it, is choice.
-The Architect
-----
He is no fool who gives what he can not keep to gain what he can not lose.
-Jim Eliott, paraphrasing Philip Henry.
Brian Pfleuger is offline  
Old April 12, 2013, 02:21 PM   #18
Derius_T
Senior Member
 
Join Date: November 29, 2004
Location: South West OHIO (boondocks)
Posts: 1,337
Brian I suspect you are most likely correct, but I can't seem to resist the challenge I guess.

Another question, if the steel cased ammo is dependable as brass (and most would say that it is, and most accounts of "damaged" guns are questionable) and cheaper to manufacture, (and that is definitely true) why the bias against it in the US? Why not set up manufacturer of massive amounts of cheap, disposable ammo and make money, and end ammo shortages forever?
Derius_T is offline  
Old April 12, 2013, 02:43 PM   #19
Brian Pfleuger
Staff
 
Join Date: June 25, 2008
Location: Central, Southern NY, USA
Posts: 18,791
I think you'd find that the basis of those questions is false, as we've been trying to tell you in this thread.

Sort of like, if the moon is made of cheese, as reports on the internet suggest, why wouldn't we just put a base there, since we'd have unlimited food?

We would.... but it's not.

UncleNick, assigned staff of this forum and reloading Professor Master Ninja Samurai, may be along shortly. He has previously posted quite a dissertation on why steel doesn't work so well. He can most certainly give you a very technical break-down of the why's and why not's of it all.
__________________
Still happily answering to the call-sign Peetza.
---
The problem, as you so eloquently put it, is choice.
-The Architect
-----
He is no fool who gives what he can not keep to gain what he can not lose.
-Jim Eliott, paraphrasing Philip Henry.
Brian Pfleuger is offline  
Old April 12, 2013, 03:15 PM   #20
Derius_T
Senior Member
 
Join Date: November 29, 2004
Location: South West OHIO (boondocks)
Posts: 1,337
But, we do know that the ammo is able to be made, and is in fact decent ammo (if disposable), and is massively cheaper to manufacture and consequently to purchase.

If 2/3 of the planet makes those rounds for pennies on the dollar, and people buy them as fast as they are made, then why doesn't some US manufacturer do the same thing? (the moon cheese doesn't apply as the moon is not in fact made of cheese as you stated, but the rounds are in fact simple to manufacture, and cheaper as well.)

If a US company set up a plant making steel 7.62 ammo, they would sell all they could make, make it cheaper, make a good profit, and pass savings on to the customer at the same time. win-win-win.....
Derius_T is offline  
Old April 12, 2013, 04:17 PM   #21
Jim Watson
Senior Member
 
Join Date: October 25, 2001
Location: Alabama
Posts: 11,383
You are talking about two different things.

Steel cases: Yes, it is possible and widely done to manufacture cartridge cases out of mild steel. The only quantity manufacture that I know of in the USA was for .45 ACP during WW II. After the war, it was back to brass for easy workability, no rust protection required, and better chamber sealing.
Steel does not work so well in typical American rounds, read the 10,000 round AR test where failures to extract occurred with steel, not with brass.
Straight case pistol calibers and old style designs with a lot of taper (7.62x39 and 7.62x54R) do better than long skinny things like .223.

I am sure US companies have looked at the economics of making imitation Communist surplus and decided against it. Hornady sells some steel cased ammunition, but I feel sure that they are importing the cases and loading them here with their bullets and bulk lot powder.

Berdan primers: Berdan primers have a lot of advantages. They are cheaper to manufacture because the anvil is just a bump in the primer pocket, not a separate piece to be inserted as with Boxer. They hold a lot of priming compound, which used to be an important consideration. The Army once looked at going Berdan so as to be able to use enough of the mild Swiss noncorrosive compound but decided against it when it turned out the stuff did not have a long shelf life in hot climates. The Swiss didn't care, but they were not operating in Haiti, the South Pacific, or Africa. We were.

Reloading with Berdan primers is possible but not easy. Hard to put a hydraulic decapper on a Dillon to load a case of ammo in an evening.
Just because you have seen some availability of Berdan primers (Where?) does not mean they are in reliable supply, either. It would require commitment by a good sized company to make it worthwhile.
And it is just so easy to keep the status quo.
Jim Watson is offline  
Old April 12, 2013, 09:08 PM   #22
Derius_T
Senior Member
 
Join Date: November 29, 2004
Location: South West OHIO (boondocks)
Posts: 1,337
Very true that many calibers perform poorly with steel cases. Fortunately the AK does not, as such ammo was designed with that platform in mind. As you probably know, Berdan primers and cases are not "communist" made. They are used by most of those countries and many others, true, but the system itself was designed by an American.

Absolutely correct about the priming compound from what I have read, but that was the older style compound, the newest style is not said to have the drawbacks that plagued the original cartridge.

The hydraulic decapping method is very easy and can keep up with a high output. Also we have a large active supply of primers.
Derius_T is offline  
Old April 13, 2013, 10:36 AM   #23
LarryFlew
Senior Member
 
Join Date: June 15, 2009
Location: Minnesota CZ fan
Posts: 898
Please post how this works out in reality vs theory. Interesting.
LarryFlew is offline  
Old April 13, 2013, 09:00 PM   #24
Derius_T
Senior Member
 
Join Date: November 29, 2004
Location: South West OHIO (boondocks)
Posts: 1,337
There are many people who in fact do this now. There are some very good videos on youtube by a guy called mainejunker. The only difference is he shows how to modify the cases, as well as brass ones, from berdan, to accept regular boxer primers. But that is alot of extra work when berdan primers are now so readily available in quantity.
Derius_T is offline  
Old April 14, 2013, 01:45 AM   #25
Lost Sheep
Senior Member
 
Join Date: January 24, 2009
Location: Anchorage Alaska
Posts: 3,057
Two separate issues plus one

1) Primers and 2) Material (Steel/Brass)

Depriming Berdan primers can be done in two ways. A hook gouges into the primer and pulls it out or hydraulic pressure (water) is forced into the case to press the primer out. The one method is tedious, the other method is messy unless you do it outside and intend to get your brass wet anyway.

Brass reloaders simply do not have those complications.

I believe it is a matter of convenience.

Material. Steel, not lasting as long had better be cheaper by at least a factor large enough to compensate for the shorter life (steel that lasts 2 firings vs brass that lasts 20 had better be 10 times cheaper). Plus some for the inconvenience of more stringent inspection of your used brass. Now, if you have an unlimited supply of once-fired steel cases (pretty certain until reloading steel cases becomes popular - tell your friends to keep it secret) for free, it seems a really good idea. You could even take a bucket of once-fired brass, reload them and then trash the twice-fired brass and never have to worry if steel cases have a 3 or 4 firings life cycle. You never go beyond two!

Note that Boxer primers were invented in Europe and very popular there. Berdan primers were invented in the U.S. and were very popular here. Somehow, both communities decided the grass was greener on the other side of the pond and both switched preferences. I don't know why.

One consideration you hinted at: Economics. Ammo makers do not have an interest in making reloadable, salvageable cases. They would, in general prefer to be the sole source(s) and have individual shooters not able to reload at all. It kind of guarantees the customer base.

Speculation: The U.S. system of commerce (free enterprise) system adopted a business model that provided reloaders what they wanted (at the expense of non-reloaders). European system of commerce provided shooters with what they wanted; cheaper ammo. Perhaps the long supply lines to the westward-expanding states had something to do with it where in Europe, communities were larger, distances between customer and manufacturer was less and people were using private firearms less than the Americans were. Like I said, speculation.

As far as animosity toward the concept. I am happy you have found none here (or little). Jealousy, envy or just the idea that someone is different brings out the ugly side in some people. Illegitimi non carborundum..

Go for it. Let us know how it works out.
Lost Sheep

Last edited by Lost Sheep; April 15, 2013 at 12:15 AM.
Lost Sheep is offline  
Reply

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 02:23 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
This site and contents, including all posts, Copyright © 1998-2014 S.W.A.T. Magazine
Copyright Complaints: Please direct DMCA Takedown Notices to the registered agent: thefiringline.com
Contact Us
Page generated in 0.13368 seconds with 7 queries