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Old September 14, 2010, 01:14 PM   #1
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Resizing loaded ammunition

I searched for this topic a few days ago and couldn't find much info on what I was trying to do, so I did it and figured I would pass along for anyone else in a similar situation. I'm not sure if there are safety issues associated with this, so others might want to share their wisdom.

Early last spring I loaded up about 100 rounds for my .480 Ruger. I was testing out different powders and charges and bullets, so I loaded up batches of 10 rounds for each combination I wanted to try. 50 of them were using 325 gr Speer JSP and 50 were using 325 gr Beartooth GC hard cast bullets. I was using mostly w-296 and Lil Gun with a couple of 2400 powder lads thrown in. All loads were using brandn new Hornady brass.

Since I was getting up towards the top end of the power spectrum, I wanted to make sure I had a healthy roll crimp. Lee doesn't make a FCD for this cartridge (well, actually I just found out you can order one special-order, but I didn't have one at the time). So, I figured on doing the roll crimp with the seating die in the RCBS set like always. I used to seat and roll crimp in separate steps, but when I did these, I was comfortable doing both operations in a single step.

Anyway, I took them out to shoot finally. The first batch of 10 were fine. They were the lowest powered loads. The next set of 5 that I tried to load into my BFR would not go in. Well, a couple of them would just barely go in if you pushed hard enough, but I couldn't eject them unless I really forced the ejector rod. I fired one of them and the case came out easily. End of shooting session, since all the rest of the cases had a similar problem.

When I got home I looked at the cases more closely. There were not any buckled cases but there was a barely detectable bulge just below the case mouth. I measured some of my older prior "good" cases and they were around 0.502" whereas the "bad" batch were at 0.507" or so, when SAAMI specs call for 0.504". Evidently, in my zeal for a firm roll crimp, I overdid it. I must have changed the crimp just a tad after the first 10 rounds that were OK.

I contemplated trying to pull the bullets. I've never tried to pull bullets with such a heavy roll crimp before though. Then I remembered that the Lee FCD actually has a carbide ring that postsizes the cases and "fixes" any bulges. As said, I didn't have a FCD for this cartridge. But really, that ring is doing pretty much the same thing as the sizer die anyway.

I decided to give it a try. I took out the decapping assembly from the sizer die. I generously lubed (these are steel RCBS dies, I couldn't find carbide when I bought them) one of the bulging cases that held a JSP bullet and fed it through the sizing die. I was a bit concerned though because I had never put a live round into the sizing die. I was mostly worried about a stuck case. It didn't stick, but it took a whole lot of force on my single stage Lee press. And yep, the case was now down to about a 0.501" max outside diameter and chambered easily in the BFR. I did the other 88 rounds with no other problems except the extra force required. For some reason, the cases loaded with the hard cast bullets didn't take as much force on the handle as the JSP bullets did, although they were still harder to do than a normal resizing.

Interestingly, for the JSP bullets, after going through the resizing process, they were now so loose that they would turn by hand in the mouth of the case. They wouldn't push in or pull out, but they would rotate easily enough. The cast bullets didn't show that. I decided to go ahead and crimp them again though, because a rotating bullet cannot be a good thing.

I'm headed out to shoot these right now. I do believe I'll load the first few up as single loads though, just in case the bullets try to back out of the cases. But they all chamber easily. Chances are, the crimping-resizing-crimping didn't do any good to the bullets and accuracy. And I'm sure my precious .480 brass didn't appreciate the extra work either. But the bottom line is that they didn't blow up in the sizing die, none of the cases stuck in the die, and now they will at least chamber in the revolver. Easier than pulling all the bullets I guess.
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Old September 14, 2010, 01:42 PM   #2
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Yep. Sizing down loaded cases can be done. I've read a few accounts of it over on ARFcom.
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Old September 14, 2010, 01:54 PM   #3
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The down side to sizing down a loaded cartridge is that in doing so you are going to be sizing down the bullet as well (which is why the lead bullets went easier than the jacketed ones). This leaves you with two things:
A) a bullet that might be undersized for the bore now and lose accuracy + cause leading... AND
B) the slight spring-back of the case after sizing won't be matched by spring-back of the bullet, meaning the re-crimp should be good, but the case neck is going to be pulled back from the bullet below the crimp and in the case of the lead bullets could cause some issues with gas cutting around the drive bands before the bullet even hits the lands or it could alter pressures inside the case itself--not something I'd consider "dangerous" unless you're near-peak pressure levels already, but I'd expect to do a little extra scrubbing on the lead fouling after you send those out. I also wouldn't rely on any accuracy you get from them as a test batch--they're likely to be a little odd-ball.
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Old September 14, 2010, 02:13 PM   #4
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Something you ran into,the lead in the bullets under the brass is "dead",it has no springback.Brass has springback.swaging the bullets down doesn't help you.
All you really need is to push the bulge back in,up near the case mouth.Is there a bottleneck rifle die that you could run it in partially,letting the body taper in the die fix you up?.You might look at something like a 300 Win mag or a 7 MM Rem.. Don't screw the die very far in the press,creep it down to get what you want.Maybe a little trace of lube wiped on with your fingers but heavy lube shouldn't be necessary.
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Old September 14, 2010, 02:31 PM   #5
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I believe the FCD is post sizing at about .005 larger than a regular sizing die. A sizing die is not a substitute for an FCD. In compressing the case to the diameter before bullet insertion, you will have compressed the bullets. I don't believe an FCD would do that except with oversized lead bullets.

The actual problem of bulged cases I believe comes from full crimp before the bullet is completely seated. The case gives way, when the bullet won't go past the crimp. You would need to resequence the two functions, seat then crimp. I believe that is one reason why seating and crimping separately are popular loading methods. The other, of course, is accommodating variable case length, all in an attempt to reduce failures to chamber or any need for post sizing.

Last edited by Real Gun; September 14, 2010 at 04:22 PM.
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Old September 14, 2010, 02:33 PM   #6
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Something you ran into,the lead in the bullets under the brass is "dead",it has no springback.Brass has springback.swaging the bullets down doesn't help you.
All you really need is to push the bulge back in,up near the case mouth.Is there a bottleneck rifle die that you could run it in partially,letting the body taper in the die fix you up?.You might look at something like a 300 Win mag or a 7 MM Rem.. Don't screw the die very far in the press,creep it down to get what you want.Maybe a little trace of lube wiped on with your fingers but heavy lube shouldn't be necessary.
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Old September 14, 2010, 10:02 PM   #7
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The Lee FCD is not dimensionally the same as the sizing die. It is made to maximum case size (so if everything is right, it doesn't have anything to size).
There is no concern about sizing a loaded round, other than your concern about sticking a loaded case and the fact that you are swaging and damaging the case.
I'll bet you will separate seating and crimping and inspect for that d**m bulge.
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Old September 14, 2010, 10:18 PM   #8
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LOL You got that right about doing seating and crimping in separate steps now. It works OK I guess to do them both for a very light crimp, but not so good for heavier crimps. And it also reinforced the lesson of checking for proper fit when trying anything new.

I shot 20 of them this afternoon. The weather did not cooperate to really try for accuracy since the wind was blowing too much to hold a paper target steady and look for groups. But mainly I was interested in function. I shot at empty pop cans at 20-25 yards. The accuracy seemed to be surprisingly good with the repaired cartridges. Just plinking away like that I hit about every can I shot at, so at least I know it wasn't horribly inaccurate. The main thing was the cylinder loaded up just fine every time, they shot where they were supposed to go, no split cases. And I can't see any visible leading or copper fouling yet. I'll know later tonight when I run a couple patches through the bore.

The other thing that was nice to see is that the Lil Gun and W-296 powders burn extremely clean when loaded this hot. I wasn't at the very max published, but I was close to the max published by at least one source. No soot and no unburned powder particles.

I might break down and special order the FCD for the .480 now. That $34 would have saved me some work in this situation.
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Old September 14, 2010, 10:45 PM   #9
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To be expected...

Despite the very real effect of "lead don't spring back", when one triggers the charge on a high pressure round the bullet obdurates and fills out first the chamber mouth and then the barrel. (The base moves before the nose of the bullet and it gets squished [a technical term] into the full size of the bore.)

This is NOT to suggest one can load high pressure rounds any old way and expect good results. One should attempt to load each round correctly and to proper specifications.

On the other hand, I want defensive or serious game ammunition to chamber and fire every time - accuracy can be compromised in some regard due to shorter ranges. Or phrased another way, five minutes of angle at twenty-five yards isn't such a big deal.

The powder burned clean? All powders burn best at the 'higher' pressure ranges for that powder. This is why 2400 really stinks as a low velocity wadcutter powder. Not that all powders must be loaded at maximum pressures, but within the designated pressure ranges.
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Old September 15, 2010, 07:48 AM   #10
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What you learned about "post-sizing" is what led Dick Lee to develop his FCDs for handguns; it works. I did it for years on 'fat' loads, long before the FCD was made but it never occured to me suggest anyone make a carbide ring to accomplish it after seating - it was quite simple to just use the steel sizer. Obviously it squeezes the bullets a tad, but considering that you can't chamber the rounds if you don't that seems a small price to pay!

You can make it work great by minimizing the sizing to only what's necessary, raise the sizer too high and work it down until you get the result you want but no more.
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Old September 15, 2010, 09:23 AM   #11
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Fat 38 Specials

I had some fat 38 Specials once and ran them through my steel 38/357 resizing die and was able to load them in my revolver. I was very nervous but it worked. That was years ago........ Lemmon
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Old September 15, 2010, 09:29 AM   #12
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There's lots of good information here (some of which I don't particularly agree with, but that's okay.) But one thing that should be pointed out and not missed is that it's poor technique at the bench to build that many of ANYTHING when the first couple haven't been checked.

80-some odd rounds doesn't sound like a zillion... but with .480 Ruger, it probably costs like a zillion!

I often take a handgun down to the bench when I'm setting up a new bullet or a new load. Chamber check for SURE. Not each round, but certainly the first 5 or 10 and then some random ones from the box of loaded ammo.

I don't like taking 80+ rounds to the range to find that they don't fit.
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Old September 15, 2010, 11:35 AM   #13
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I worked in a gun shop for 6 years a while back.

One day the boss came back into the shop with a .308 FL die with a live round stuck in it. He wanted me to get it out! The owner was post-sizing his rounds, didn't get enough lube on it. It was a RCBS die.

Now how to remove it without possibly setting it off!? I machined an adapter for where the depriming stem screws in, to fit on a porta-power pump. The pump can put out high pressure oil for a cylinder. It only took a couple pumps to push the bullet back out of the neck, down into the powder, oil into the powder, and pop the primer out the back of the shell. Then it was a simple stuck case removal.

He was trying to iron out some shells that had bulged the shoulder while being crimped too much.

If I had that dilemma, I'd simply pull the bullets, then start over. That will teach you a lesson real quick.
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Old September 15, 2010, 10:29 PM   #14
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