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Old June 8, 2014, 07:12 PM   #1
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Brass in .223 Remington - advice.

The cost and availability issues of buying factory fresh brass where I am mean that it is both easier and cheaper to buy bargain-price ammo and shoot it for the cartridge cases (and the practice). I'm not bothered if any particular brand I pick to do this doesn't shoot worth a damn when compared to the premium stuff (or my own handloads, if they turn out that good), but is there any brand of brass that anyone would advise me to steer clear of, or has had specific problems with in the past?

I also decided I'd better start picking range discards up and stashing it away. The first harvesting was fruitful, with a range of sporting ammo headstamps found. I also recognised what looked like military headstamps, but there was enough "civilian" brass to suit my needs that I could afford to leave the military stuff behind, and not enough of the military brass to justify buying a primer pocket reamer. Based on recommendations (or un-recommendations!!) above, I would be tempted to modify my "harvesting" habits, or at least assign priorities in terms of what got cleaned, resized, trimmed etc. first and what got put in the pile marked "Desperation".

Thanks all.

NOTE: All the ammo will be shot from a bolt-action repeater, so any factory ammo shot in my gun gets neck-sized and the rest goes through the full-length die once.
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Old June 8, 2014, 07:58 PM   #2
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When I am picking up brass I collect all of it, sort out what I want, trade, give away rest. I find way more military brass at the ranges I go to. A simple primer crimp remover hooked to my drill and I can buzz thru them pretty quick. Big plus is the military brass lasts longer.
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Old June 8, 2014, 08:41 PM   #3
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Not that you aren't or haven't, but just in case, pay attention to the 223 vs 5.56 brass. Here is one of several long reads;
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Old June 8, 2014, 09:03 PM   #4
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I'd pick it all up and use what you don't want for trading fodder, or like you mentioned simply stash it for the next election year.
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Old June 8, 2014, 10:29 PM   #5
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Pick up all the .223 you can, crimped primer pocket or not. If you shoot a lot of it, it will pay to invest in a proper tool to remove the crimp in military brass. I use the Dillon Super Swage 600 and it works like a charm, but not cheap. Pays in the long run though. By the way you can buy once fired .233 brass online for $.07 to $.08 a piece if you look around. No need to buy factory ammo or new brass IMO.
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Old June 9, 2014, 12:09 AM   #6
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One think about Military brass is you know it is once fired when the crimp is still in place. All other range brass can have who know how many firings on them?

To me it is worth the extra work to have some piece of mind knowing that that brass is much less likely to fail the first time I reload it.
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Old June 9, 2014, 07:07 AM   #7
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Most 223/5.56 brass will work just fine. I have used the following headstamps with good success:

LC - crimped (my favorite for once-fired brass, good consistency and gives many reloads)

PMC - non-crimped - good brass though flash holes are frequently off center

R-P - non-crimped - ok

PPU - non-crimped - good

FC - crimped - ok

PSD - crimped - good (military version of PMC)

WCC - good

Removing crimps can be a bit of a pain but I am happy to do it on LC brass.

I have not come across any 223/5.56 brass that I would not reload again. I have read many threads warning about 'amerc' brass but I have never come across any.
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Old June 9, 2014, 01:24 PM   #8
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The reason that article's author was surprised by the similar peak pressure ranges for .223 and 5.56 is they aren't really as different as the literature would lead you to believe. The MIL-C-63989 C (AR) the author references has the unchanged pressure standard from version A from 1984. They say "psi", but are actually what SAAMI calls CUP (copper units of pressure). This practice of military documents reporting CUP as psi has caused no end of confusion over non-existent pressure standard differences. Further confusion comes from the Europeans using different procedures with differently configured test instrumentation, and you've got all manner of confusion.

The result of the confusion is that SAAMI gives the .223 Remington Maximum Average Pressure (MAP) limits of 52,000 CUP (copper crusher) and 55,000 psi (conformal Piezo transducer), while the CIP puts the peak pressures at 53,664 CUP (3700 bar by copper crusher), and 62,366 psi (4300 bar by a non-conformal Piezo transducer method). The CIP and NATO numbers are the same, AFAIK, except the NATO EVPAT method spec will include a gas port 'pressure window' at some distance down the barrel.

Board member FALPhil has a good article on this topic as it relates to the constantly repeated Internet legend that .308 Winchester and 7.62 NATO have different pressure limits.


You will find military brass is made of 70:30 (copper:zinc) cartridge brass, while some commercial ammo (e.g., Remington and Federal) is 80:20 low brass which is easier to form when soft and before work hardening, but which fatigues more easily and so may need more frequent neck annealing. Also, unlike SAAMI, the military brass has hardness level targets for different locations at the head and sides of sectioned brass, assuming it is made to NATO spec. I've also found that new LC brass I bought had better neck wall runout consistency than Winchester and Remington. Indeed, the LC 11 I bought is very good at about 0.001" typical neck wall runout. So I like the quality.

LC 5.56 brass water overflow capacity is right near the middle of the range for commercial .223 brass, and is not lower in capacity as military 7.62 brass tends to be lower in capacity than .308 brass. There are, however, some foreign headstamps that can be odd. I recommend you simply weigh the brass. Capacity varies inversely with weight within about ±20% of the difference, IME. The reason it's not a perfect relationship is the outside dimensions at the head aren't all identical (different diameters, rim thicknesses, etc.). But, generally speaking, cases that weigh between 90 and 96 grains (deprimed and cleaned) before trimming and crimp removal, are what I would call normal. That span represents the equivalent of about ±0.2 grains powder for typical loads, and you should be choosing loads less sensitive that than when you can.

The main downside of military brass, other than having to remove crimps, is that a lot of range pick-ups and once-fired brass has bent rims or out of square heads from the particular guns they were fired in, such as a Mini-14 or a full auto weapon or an AR that's over aggressive with extraction. The brass will square back up in your bolt gun, if the gun's bolt face is true and your lugs are not in need of lapping, but the first time you fire it, groups may open up from uneven head contact. Some of it has to be full length resized in a regular FL die, then run through a small base die before it is back near normal size. So, you just have to watch out to lube well and check with a case gauge before first firing it in your gun.
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Last edited by Unclenick; June 10, 2014 at 09:09 AM. Reason: typo fixes and clarification
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Old June 9, 2014, 06:19 PM   #9
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Thanks all for your insights.

Am not in the US, so election year issues aren't as pertinent here (no fixed cycle in a Commonwealth Parliament; if the Prime Minister screws up and loses the confidence of the House, he could potentially find himself out of a job tomorrow with an election being called not long after).

Brands I found included Hornady, Nosler and even a handful of Barnes. Military headstamps really were grossly in the minority, but oddly enough I found the Hornady and Nosler primers really hard to knock out with a Lee Loader (the dies for my press are on backorder, and until they arrive I'll only be loading factory fodder that's shot in my rifle). That implied that there was some sort of crimping applied, and indeed some of the primers were rather oddly shaped when they came out (unlike the Large Rifle primers I load into - or find in - my .303 British cases).

I'm aware of the whole 5.56/.223 difference thing, but given that I'd be batching my cases anyway and working up loads for each from minimum, I can't see myself getting into too much trouble regarding pressure. And everything I pick up at the range is going through the full-length resize and trim cycle, so any external differences should get sorted out at that point.
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Old June 10, 2014, 12:24 AM   #10
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Hornady crimps the primer pockets on .223.. at least lately they have been. Good brass though
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