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Old October 10, 2006, 11:38 AM   #1
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Question about brass

Brand new to reloading / handloading. Please help me with a basic question.

I understand that brass shell cases can be reused only a certain number of times before they wear out, and that some wear out sooner than others. How can you tell that a particular case is no longer usable / safe? I certainly don't want to crank of a shot of .45 ACP or .44 Magnum out of a brass case that's about to crack or can't hold a primer or something anymore.

Thanks, all
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Old October 10, 2006, 11:43 AM   #2
Mike Irwin
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The case will tell you when it's worn out.

A primer loose in a pocket?

The case is worn out.

Case mouth cracks on firing?

The case is worn out.

Rifle cases will typically last only a fraction of the time of a straight walled case. Higher pressures and the case shape cause brass to actually flow, with the case getting thinner near the rear and longer overall. That's why rifle cases have to be trimmed occasionally.

The biggest killer of straight wall pistol cases, especially revolver cases, is the constant working of the mouth that comes from belling the case to accept a bullet and (especially in revolvers) roll criming the case to lock the bullet in place. Revolver cases will normally split at the mouth long before auto cases.

That said, if you reduce the amount of belling and crimping to only the minimum needed, your case life will go up dramatically.

I have a number of .38 Spl. cases that have been reloaded close to 50 times at this point. They're from the original batch of .38s that I bought in... 1984. How do I know? They're the only PMC .38s I ever purchased. Of the original 100, I have probably 75 left.

I've also pushed some nasty reloads out of my .357 and .41 Mags. -- top drawer loads with slow burning powders. Some of the .41s have been reloaded close to 10 times at this point, and I've yet to lose a single one due to a cracked neck.
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Last edited by Mike Irwin; October 10, 2006 at 12:08 PM. Reason: Adding more information
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Old October 10, 2006, 11:50 AM   #3
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For low pressure cases like .45ACP just use them until the case mouth splits (same for low pressure .44 Mag loads). For high pressure thumpers in .44 Mag two or three times is probably enough.

For .44 Mag I have two brass caches - new Starline for anything approaching fast and range brass for target loads, which I load like .44 Specials.
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Old October 10, 2006, 12:01 PM   #4
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Look at the case - it will tell you.

For 45acp, look at the base of the case. It may bell or bulge a little bit, even after resizing. Case mouth is also a good indicator. If it has burrs, cracks or splits, probably time to give up on it. Primer pocket is hit/miss on telling you when it is time to give up on a case, because pocket tightness varies between brands. I find Sellier & Bellot brass to have extremely tight primer pockets even after 5+ firings for 45acp, but WWB is very soft in the primer pocket after only a couple of loadings.

In all truth, you could PROBABLY load a 45acp case 50 times with reasonably light loads as long as you are diligent in your brass prep when resizing, lightly flaring the case mouth, minimal-to-no-crimp on the bullet, light powder load, etc.
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Old October 10, 2006, 12:03 PM   #5
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Yep, what Gwalch said.

I shoot my .45acp's until they split. I have some cases with well over 25 reloads on them - doesn't bother me in the slightest. Then again, these are pretty soft loads.

With my .357 Mag, I have three piles of brass.

Brand New Brass: used for working up HOT fresh loads. These are one shot cases - shoot them once them move them into another category. Think, 1300+ fps on a 180gr bullet.

"Once Fired" Brass: used for Moderately hot loads at the range. Basically, a stiff practice load. 1200fps on a 180gr bullet, 1350 fps on a 158gr bullet.

"Thrice Fired" Brass: plinking grade .357 loads. Warmer loads: 1100 fps or so.

Works for me!
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Old October 10, 2006, 04:31 PM   #6
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My 357, 41, and 44 brass get 5 stiff loadings. After that they go in the range ammo pile.

Some of my 357 cases are up over 20 loads and still just fine.
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