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Old May 1, 2019, 04:43 PM   #1
cdoc42
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.45 Colt cases not the same size

In 43 years I have not reloaded handgun ammo by first measuring new case sizes in 9mm Luger, .380 Auto, .38/.357, .44 Mag, .454 Casull, and I have not experienced trouble seating bullets to the same OAL. The position of the crimp may differ slightly, but target shooting accuracy or lack thereof is more traceable to my skill.

I just started reloading .45 Colt. But as I started the first 50, I rechecked how the 255gr Keith-style bullet fit in the belled new case to find some dropped all the way in, rather than just getting started. I measured the cases and found some shorter than others, which explained the situation. I checked the recommended case size in the 50th Lyman Edition and the Winchester cases used were listed at “trimmed to 1.275.”

In the Speer, Hornady, Hodgdon, Sierra and Nosler manuals, the OAL case was listed as 1.285.” All were Winchester except for Federal listed in the Nosler manual.

That led to an exercise where I measured 10 new, unfired, unsized, unbelled, Winchester cases to find a wide range of sizes –from 1.270 to 1.280 inches.

I had 5 fired R-P cases and they measured 1.266 to 1.270 inches. When I resized these, they all measured 1.275 inches.

I had 5 fired Winchester cases that ranged from 1.266 to 1.268 inches, and resized, they measured 1.273 to 1.278 inches.

Since I was able to resize the R-P cases 1.275”, I resized new Winchester cases but did not find the same result. 1.267” went to 1.269”; 72 went to 78; 78 went to 81; 79 went to 85.

First question: what should the OAL of the unfired case be before reloading- 1.285” as seen in 5 manuals, or 1.275” as seen in the Lyman manual? Or is the 1.285"listed a pre-trimmed maximum?

I can trim all long cases to 1.275” but what do I do with a significant number that are under 1.275” to start with?
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Old May 1, 2019, 05:39 PM   #2
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From SAAMI's site and download the drawings of handgun cartridges. When you find the drawing of the 45 Colt on page 59, you will see the case is specified as 1.285 inches long, with a tolerance of minus 0.020". So 1.265" to 1.285" for a sized case ready to load is the range. The nominal trim-to length is simply in the middle of that range at 1.275".

You will want them reasonably consistent than that for crimps, I think. To get that, you have to resize them all and then trim them all to match the shortest one. A tolerance of five thousandths is perfectly acceptable. More is, but if you want consistency, I would aim for that.

Some brass (I have had this problem mainly with Remington cases) work hardens and gets springy quickly. When that occurs, especially if the case wall is thin at the mouth, it can spring back out after resizing to be so loose that a bullet falls in. The solutions are to anneal the mouth, which is a bit of a bother with handgun brass and has to be done carefully so as to avoid softening the head, or to get a small base die that narrows them more (Dillon handgun dies are like this) so they can't spring back out too far. This also makes them longer, so be prepared to size them in such a die before trimming to desired length. The standard 1.275" trim-too length is a good target value.
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Old May 1, 2019, 06:07 PM   #3
cdoc42
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Thanks, Unclenick. Given a high number of shorties, I'll have to trim to 1.265".

Getting used to a large blade sight with a small rear "v" sight on a cowboy rig is teaching this old dog new tricks but I just overcame it yesterday at the range.
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Old May 1, 2019, 06:51 PM   #4
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Quote:
First question: what should the OAL of the unfired case be before reloading- 1.285” as seen in 5 manuals, or 1.275” as seen in the Lyman manual? Or is the 1.285"listed a pre-trimmed maximum?
Provided its long enough after it is sized, I don't see where the OAL of virgin brass matters.

Quote:
I can trim all long cases to 1.275” but what do I do with a significant number that are under 1.275” to start with?
Separate them from the rest, keep them together, and load them separately.


I don't have the Lyman 50th, but I do have their 45th edition within reach, in that book, .45 Colt max case length is listed as 1.285".
Trim to length is listed as 1.280".
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Old May 2, 2019, 06:10 PM   #5
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For the most part I shoot to practice for hunting. I usually carry something on my side while at the farm starting around 41, and going up from there. Can never tell when a hog or hogs will get stupid and try their luck.

Years ago when I decided to get good enough to hunt with handguns I started trimming my brass to an even length. I found it did help my groups shrink and boosted my confidence to boot.

Like you I found the new brass varies and while a casual weekend shooter might not ever have the need to squeak out accuracy to the infinite degree, a hunter making precise shots does. My pop never agreed in the pie plate theory and after nearly 50yrs of hunting neither do I. I usually trim to a standard length simply so I can get consistent crimps. This too I have found will effect accuracy as well. Not enough and you get set back or slippage that might lock up a cylinder or possible raise pressure drastically in a auto feeder.

If you have 500 cases and you trim 300 to the same length you have a good supply of consistent brass. The others being short can be trimmed to a shorter length and simply color the case head with a Sharpie so they are distinguished from the other batch. Easy to keep separated and will most likely shoot just as good.
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Old May 4, 2019, 09:24 AM   #6
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Just measured 5 Starline .45 Colt cases[new]:1.275"
Then 5 that have been re-sized, no trimming: 1.280". Starline seems pretty consistent.
Hasn't "grown" any after firing in a lever action rifle.
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Old May 5, 2019, 09:22 AM   #7
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I was thinking about getting some Starline brass. The Winchester cases are bizarre. I resized the new brass along with the fired cases and trimmed all to 1.270" which captures 95% of the cases; the remainder are less than 1.270 to start with. Chamfered and deburred.

I belled the mouths just slightly to start the Keith-style 255gr cast bullet. Primed and loaded with 5.5gr Trail Boss. 4 of the first 5 reloaded new cases seated separately to 1.595" then crimped. The 5th case seated to 1.595" but when I crimped it, the bullet got pushed to 1.584" The crimp prevents me from extracting the bullet with my fingers or pushing it deeper but I can rotate the bullet in the case!!! I never had that happen with any other handgun bullet in .38, .44 mag or .454 Casull.
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Old May 5, 2019, 11:47 AM   #8
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First, get a bullet puller. I recommend the big orange hammer from Lyman. I used the RCBS collet type in my press for years, was never happy with it, and its virtually impossible to pull a lead bullet without ruining it. The inertia type "hammer" does so, and does it without damage to the bullet.

Next, just how are you crimping? Seat and crimp in one step? (ok, I see it was two steps) one die? or two? Are you crimping with standard dies, or the Lee collet type?

And, are you using a progressive press, or a single stage?? Some might not think so, but this does matter.

Any possibility the loose bullet was undersize??

If you can rotate the bullet in the case, either the bullet is undersize or the case was over expanded. With proper neck tension (bullet hold) you should not be able to move the bullet at all, (in, out, or around), BEFORE any crimp is applied. Doing a "bad" crimp can loosen the bullet hold.
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Old May 5, 2019, 01:24 PM   #9
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Years ago I found the same problem with 44 Mag. cases. Different mfgs. were different lengths. Use only 1 mafg. or trim them.
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Old May 5, 2019, 01:42 PM   #10
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What pete2 said. In .357, only Federal brass stretched. No one else's. Starline seems to be about the best out there.
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Old May 5, 2019, 04:14 PM   #11
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44AMP:

1) I seat all rounds, then crimp,using a single Hornady 3-die set. Note most rounds load as desired; just an occasional round seats too deeply and/or rotates after crimping.

2) The bullets are from Missouri bullet company,Keith-style, 255 gr

3) I'm using a RCBS "Rock Chucker" press

4) I have both bullet pullers - inertia and Hornady collet. I agree the latter does not extract the cast bullet without damage.

5) Re: case over expansion: if all cases measure 1.270" and 4 of 5 bell the mouth just right, why would the 5th over expand? I suspect the case was a defectively constructed sample - thin wall compared to others-?

On the other hand, for target shooting at water-filled containers or balloons at 10-15 yards, with a Trail Boss load of 5.5gr, does it really matter that the OAL is 1.584" vs 1.595"? I wonder if the cowboys in the hazardous west spent this much effort in ammunition perfection. Of course, in a gun fight, I'd prefer precision......
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Old May 5, 2019, 05:02 PM   #12
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There is considerable variation in bullet diameters used for the 45 Colt, from about .451 up to .454. That can make it difficult to get good results over the range of bullet diameters from a basic 3 die set. The combination of sizing and expanding dies can create situations where there is too little (or no) bullet seating tension, or (on the opposite end of the spectrum) where the bullet base is easily damaged when seating.

These problems can be largely overcome by using a sizer on the small side and expanders of different diameters.

I have 45 Colt die sets from two different manufacturers with sizing dies that measure .004" different in diameter. Depending on the brand of brass, the larger sizer may not size the cases sufficiently to achieve good bullet tension. In those instances using the smaller sizer works, but you are typically left with a case with a noticeable "waist" between the bottom of the bullet and head of the case.

The Redding dies with two different sizing rings would seem to be a good solution, but expanders of different diameters may still be needed for the best results.

Edit: I see you are using the a Hornady die set. FYI my Hornady sizer measures .004" larger than my RCBS sizer.
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Old May 5, 2019, 10:51 PM   #13
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cdoc42

1) sounds normal, but for the "occasional" round. What kind of frequency is occasional? 1 in 5? 1 in 50?

2)again, sounds normal, but cast bullets can vary a bit, especially if they are from slightly different batches of alloy. Sizing and lubing will take care of oversize, but won't do anything but lube undersize slugs.

3)I ask because I've used both, and gave up on progressives a long time back, because they don't have the same degree of "Feel". Because you are doing multiple things at the same time, it's difficult to feel when something is easier than normal. Maybe you haven't yet developed a good "feel" for the way things are when not right?

Seems to me that occasional round that goes too deep or can be rotated easily would have a different feel when seating the bullet. Too easy...you should be able to feel the difference when you pull the handle.

I have done it, more than once, something didn't "feel" right, so I stopped and inspected the round. (.38SPL, case cracked when expanding, I didn't notice at that point, but did notice when the bullet seated too easily.

4) good job. Very useful tools sometimes.

5)
Quote:
and 4 of 5 bell the mouth just right, why would the 5th over expand? I suspect the case was a defectively constructed sample
Uncle Nick covered why some cases do it in post#2. It could also be a defective individual case. OR it could be the result of stacking tolerances.
The possibles include a case thinner than usual, a sizer die on the edge of tolerances, good for usual but not enough for a thinner case, expander diameter (and depth expanded) and actual bullet diameter.
One or more of these on the large side another on the small side and while everything could be within "book tolerances" when the stars line up just right, you get a loose bullet.

That's my best guess, from here. It seems that you aren't "testing" each round after seating. Meaning, giving it a firm push against the bench, and/or trying to rotate the bullet. IF you did that and found one loose, why did you crimp it??

OR, if you did, and they were ok, and the crimp loosened the bullet, but only on one round, that's a bit of a different thing.

Seating depth correct before crimping?? Not what a book number says, but with the case lip centered in the crimp groove? A matching someone's listed COAL (loaded length) shorter than max doesn't matter as much as crimping in the right place.

another thing is how much are you crimping? TOO much crimp can compress the bullet and lead and brass differ in how much they spring back, so too hard a crimp can loosen the bullet, by squeezing it too much.

With the light loads you're using, only a hint of a crimp should be all that is needed.

Since you load other rounds without these problems, you're probably doing things right and you probably just have gotten a bad case.

It can be frustrating I know. Doing everything right, things working right all the time except when it doesn't, for no obvious reason.
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Old May 6, 2019, 12:32 AM   #14
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I didn't read all the posts but my idea is you may be picking up brass that was trimmed shorter for the leverolution cartridges.I ran into this recently. JMHO
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Old May 6, 2019, 10:26 AM   #15
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I bought new brass, different mfgs. were different lengths. To my knowledge I've never had handgun brass stretch. It will be shorter after firing as opposed to after it's resized.
.44 mag. was the only cal. I had to size.
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Old May 6, 2019, 01:31 PM   #16
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Resized brass is squeezed narrower, so the brass has to go somewhere and length is where it goes. This is why trimming is always done after resizing. To stretch during firing, brass has to stick to the chamber before the case backs up against the breech. Loads peaking at low numbers do not and those peaking at high numbers do. Usually, the dividing line is for loads that peak somewhere in the vicinity of 30,000 psi. It varies with case shape, but it's often somewhere in that general vicinity.
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Old May 6, 2019, 10:08 PM   #17
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44AMP, thanks for the detailed response. I know what you mean by "feeling" the bullet being seated such that one can predict it is more loose or more resisted. The question becomes should one keep those aside and change the die setting to reseat the loose ones to the desired level after bumping them out with the internia puller, then change the die again to seat the resisted ones more deeply?

For target shooting, is it worth the effort, or can you just label these as such, shoot them, and if accuracy suffers, don't blame yourself? I can see a danger if one loads to max and an increase in depth and crimp may raise a cautionary flag.
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Old May 9, 2019, 12:41 PM   #18
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You can shoot them. Just be aware that to avoid bullet back-out in a revolver or getting slammed deeper into the case by a self-loader, you should fire them one-at-a-time.

The first time I ran into a springy R-P case that would not resize far enough to hold a bullet, I realized the simple thing is to try to press the bullet deeper into the case with my thumb. With lubricated lead bullets, I can almost always do it if I really press hard, but it didn't take long to figure out what a passing feel was like.

The other thing you can do is buy a Dillon sizing die. To prevent a round messing up a progressive loading sequence they make their dies on the tight side (small base) so they virtually always squeeze a case down far enough. That puts a little more wear on the brass, of course, but I just consider the need to occasionally retire a piece of brass a little early as part of the cost of reloading and it is less costly to me than the added time needed to check and sort every round for loose fit. I don't think I've ever had a loose 45 Auto bullet since I started loading on the Dillon, not even with the thin necked, springy R-P brass.
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Old May 9, 2019, 06:08 PM   #19
cdoc42
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Thanks, Unclenick; it just so happens that I have placed those loose cartridges aside with plans to shoot them one at a time.

Since I resized all the new brass first, then trimmed to equal lengths, I've loaded 50 rounds without any loose issues. It appears the problem was reloading new brass without resizing it first.
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Old May 9, 2019, 07:04 PM   #20
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Quote:
It appears the problem was reloading new brass without resizing it first.
That will do it. People somehow think that new brass is all ready to go. It MIGHT be but there's no guarantee.

I would pop off the loose rounds, or pull the bullets. Size the brass (keep it separate from the rest). If it loads normally after that, fine, if not, toss it in the "use after the good stuff is gone at the end of the world" can.

I use a single stage, so I don't have concerns about "losing" the feel of seating using a progressive.

I wouldn't be overly concerned about a slightly deeper bullet raising pressure to dangerous levels in a .45 Colt. Its a big case with plenty of room, its not a grenade in waiting like the .40 S&W.

Btw, what are you shooting them out of??
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Old May 10, 2019, 06:47 AM   #21
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44 AMP, I'm shooting a Taylor's Arms, model 1873, 5-1/2" BBL. Nice piece to alternate with the .454 Casull on a typical day at the range.
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