Case Preparation: The Whole Box and Dice

Introduction:

This page runs through the steps taken to prepare new brass for use for the more "accuracy minded" F-Class shooters. As with most things in shooting there is more than one way to do something so feel free to do things your way with your equipment. Following this process through will give you come very consistent brass that will serve you well at the range.

 

200 brand new ADI 223 cases

200 brand new ADI 223 cases

 

Start with your batch of new brass. In my case it's 200 brand new ADI 223 cases.

ADI have only just started making unprimed brass for the non-military market so it will be interesting to see how this goes. It's really an experiment next to the Lapua offering.

ADI mil-spec brass is well known for being good tough military brass so it will be interesting to see how it holds up in an F-Class rifle running high pressure loads.

Step 1:

Well annealed necks are clearly visible

Well annealed necks are clearly visible

 

A quick look at the cases shows the typical discolouration on the neck and shoulder from the annealing process during forming.

Generally speaking this should allow the necks to hold up well to necking up and down processes for other wildcats however for this application I'll be keeping these cases as 223. Even leaving them as 223 cases I'm still going to give them a full going over.

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Step 2:

The FLS die with the expander ball removed

The FLS die with the expander ball removed

 

The first step (for the impatient) is to run the cases through a full length die to help round out the necks.

I turn my necks so my full length die has the expander removed. I will expand using a separate step before turning.

This particular die is set up for the default headspace setting and can be used for minimum headspace sizing for my chamber when a 4 thou shim is used. In this case for new brass I am not using the shim because I want to size all of the neck in preparation for neck turning.

The shims are handy for fine adjustments of the dies without moving the locking ring.

The FLS die with a 4 thou shim

The FLS die with a 4 thou shim

A dirty die can make a mess of the necks

A dirty die can make a mess of the necks

 

So I lube up all of the cases and run them through the die. Inspecting the first few cases after sizing I can see that my die is a bit dirty and in need of a clean. The dirt particles embedded in the die have helped to remove the polish in the die and cause the die to scrape the brass.

I'm not particularly bothered by that because I will be turning the necks later but I clean and polish it anyway.

I can also see that the die is not sizing the neck all the way down to the shoulder.

Because of the die setup I know that it is sizing the case to the default factory specs which would indicate that these cases are a little under size headspace wise.

Depending on the primers used, the headspace of the chamber and the firing pin protrusion this may introduce ignition problems when first used. That will be an issue for me to worry about later on when these are actually loaded. More importantly I will need to be careful not to cut into that un-sized portion of the neck while neck turning for reasons explained later on.

Checking the headspace with a headspace gauge indicated that it's not too bad and the cases should headspace properly in the chamber.

Before I do any more work on them, the cases are put into the tumbler to clean up the case lube.

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Step 3:

As the cases come out of the tumbler I put them mouth down in some ammunition cases so that I can easily inspect the flash holes. I should have done this as an initial step however my impatience got the better of me and I ran them through the die first because I wanted to see how much they varied from factory spec. The point of checking them now is that there is not point trimming and turning necks on cases that are going to be culled because of bad flash holes.

Visually they all appear to be sized consistently and all of the holes are positioned in the center so I won't be culling any cases because of bad flashholes.

Flash hole inspection. All good.

Flash hole inspection. All good.

 

What doesn't appear correct though is the size. The flash holes look too small so I measure them. They're 0.070" versus the standard 0.081" making them more than 10 thou undersize. Now this is both a good thing and a bad thing. The bad is that my decapping pins may not fit. The good is that a smaller flash hole makes a stronger case that's more resistant to high chamber pressures and generally produces more consistent ignition. It's one of the reasons that the PPC bench rest cases use the smaller 0.059" flash hole.

I check all of my dies decapping pins and they will all fit the 0.070" flash hole so I don't have any of the negatives and am left with the positive.

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Step 4:

A quick look at the case mouths.

A quick look at the case mouths.

 

It's worth noting that because the expander has been removed (to allow me to expand in a separate step) some of the necks have come out of the die with the same dents that they had going in. These are removed by the expander and are not something to worry about. We take a quick look over them anyway looking for anything that might be beyond recovery.

We can see a few bent ones

We can see a few bent ones

 

One thing that was observed was that these cases come with the necks pre chamfered. For general applications a quick run through a neck die would see them ready to use without any problems (except the flash hole size if your decapping pins are too big).

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Step 5:

The wilson trimmer

The Wilson trimmer

 

The next step is to trim the cases. It could be done after the expanding step except that expanding requires the lubing of the insides of the necks and unless you clean the lube out you will get shavings from the trimming process stuck in the neck. If you don't remove them when it comes time to turn your necks they will stuff up your necks. So I trim now but I will not chamfer or de-burr because the necks are not ready for it yet. The major problem for me with this step is that I have the trimmer set up for fire formed correctly headspaced and with neck lengths that match my chamber. I hate changing my adjustments.

An untrimmed case (left) and a trimmed case in the case holder

An untrimmed case (left) and a trimmed case in the case holder

 

I need to alter the trim length of my Wilson trimmer for this batch of brass because the brass will be shorter than my fireformed cases. I have measured my chamber lengths and know that I can run a slightly longer case neck. But it's critical for accuracy and consistency that we make every case exactly the same length so we may find that we get quite a way through the cases and find a case that is a few thou shorter than the others. At that point we need to readjust the trimmer and start again.

A simple step to set the trimmer up initially is to take a handful of cases and measure them all. Then you set the trimmer up to just clean up the mouth of the shortest case. There is a good chance that it will then be right for all the cases.

Trimming in progress

Trimming in progress

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Step 6:

With my nice clean trimmed cases I lube the insides of the necks with a cotton bud and run them through the expander die. In doing this I check that the inside of each case is clean of brass shavings and tumbler media.

Lanolin is a fantastic lube for reloading

Lanolin is a fantastic lube for reloading

Lubing the insides of the necks prior to expanding them

Lubing the insides of the necks prior to expanding them

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Step 7:

A case about to be run through the expander die

A case about to be run through the expander die

 

It's now time to expand the necks and remove the last of the dents so for that we need an expander die. This sets the necks to a diameter that is generally suitable for seating progectiles. Usually it's done by the expander in your FLS die.

In my case it's a Sinclair expander die which is matched to my Sinclair neck turning tool.

Some of the turning mandrel diameters can vary from brand to brand so it's not advised to mix brands of turning mandrels and expander mandrels.

You can see that the expander removes the dented necks quite easily.

Before and after on an uneven neck. The expander rounds them out nicely.

Before and after on an uneven neck. The expander rounds them out nicely.

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Step 8:

Many reloaders use a different, finer lube for neck turning but I find that the lube I use to expand the necks does a good job of lubing for the turning process so there is no intermediate preparation step for me prior to turning.

I will now proceed with turning my necks.

Neck turning. About to start and 1/3rd completed

Neck turning. About to start and 1/3rd completed

It's important to make sure to go slow so as not to get heat buildup in the turning tool. Personally I do not use power to turn necks for this reason.

You can see that I have not turned the necks below the area where they were resized by the die. The problem is that that area may be greater in diameter than the sized portion of the neck and turning that area will remove more brass than we want to remove. After fire forming we will re-turn the necks to deal with this area. We can always cut brass off later on if we haven't removed enough but we can never put it back onto the necks if we remove too much in an initial step.

Neck turning. 2/3rd's completed and finished

Neck turning. 2/3rd's completed and finished

Close up of the finished turned neck

Close up of the finished turned neck

 

It was necessary to reposition the turning mandrel to ensure that we only cut the portion of the neck that we want to.

This particular turning tool has the cutters cutting depth preset for the bushing dies that I already have but for a new setup you will adjust the cutter for 100% cleanup then either get the right bushings or turn your lee collet die mandrel to suit.

If I find that I cannot get 100% cleanup then it will be necessary for me to adjust the cutter. In that situation I will need to obtain another bushing for use with these cases.

All 200 cases with their necks turned

All 200 cases with their necks turned

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Step 9:

Flash hole showing the burr

Flash hole showing the burr

 

With all of the necks turned I can now turn to the primer pockets and flash holes.

A quick visual inspection shows that the flash holes need deburring. A burr is clearly visible on the inner edge of the flash hole and it will need to be removed.

Unfortunately my Sinclair Gen II flash hole uniformer won't fit into the smaller flash holes that these cases have.

Flash hole deburring tools

Flash hole deburring tools

 

Luckily I have an older RCBS flash hole deburring tool that can do the job.

A quick turn and the burr is gone.

Deburring the flash hole

Deburring the flash hole

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Step 10:

The primer pocket uniformer in drill

The primer pocket uniformer in drill

 

Next up are the primer pockets. This is where I introduce a little power to the process.

Sinclair's sell a power adaptor for their primer pocket uniformer's (which I also have) but it's easier just to chuck the uniformer straight into the drill.

Putting the case on the primer pocket uniformer

Putting the case on the primer pocket uniformer

 

Just position the case on the uniformer and spin the drill. Each case will typically need to be removed halfway through the uniforming process to clear the brass chips and allow for a clean cut.

It's necessary to keep cutting until the primer pocket is perfectly smooth. A partially cut pocket typically has visible radial lines as shown.

Partially uniformed primer pocket

Partially uniformed primer pocket

Fully uniformed primer pocket

Fully uniformed primer pocket

 

A properly uniformed primer pocket only has circular lines visible.

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Step 11:

Nearing the end it's time to chamfer the outsides of the necks. This removes the sharp edge that is left by the trimming and neck turning processes.

Some people follow this step by spinning the case mouths in fine 0000 steel wool. It's not something that I do because tumbling the cases later tends to smooth out the necks and case mouths and the first firing does the rest.

Deburring the outside of the neck

Deburring the outside of the neck

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Step 12:

After chamfering the outsides of the necks it's time to clean the cases again to remove the lube that is in the necks, left over from the turning process. So it's back into the tumbler for these cases.

With the insides of the necks again free of lube and brass shavings it's time to chamfer the insides of the case mouths.

Chamfering the inside of the neck

Chamfering the inside of the neck

For that I use a K&M VLD chamfer tool. I previously used to use both it and the standard 45 degree tool to create a composite chamfer. I realised that it was the K&M tool that was doing all the work and have started using it exclusively.

Case before and after chamfering the inside of the neck

Case before and after chamfering the inside of the neck

The before and after pictures clearly show the very neat chamfer cut that this tool makes.

 

Case before and after chamfering the inside of the neck

Case before and after chamfering the inside of the neck

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The End (for now):

Now we have 200 prepared cases. The necks will need to be re-turned after the first firing at which point I will take the cut right down into the shoulder to minimise the future doughnut formation.

200 finished ADI 223 cases ready to use

200 finished ADI 223 cases ready to use

 

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Epilogue

A friend asked about how consistent in weight I found the ADI brass to be which prompted me to weigh them all.

ADILapua
WeightCountWeightCount
95.6193.91
95.7094.00
95.8194.11
95.9594.24
96.0994.38
96.11494.48
96.21294.58
96.32494.66
96.41894.74
96.53094.85
96.62894.94
96.72895.04
96.8995.18
96.91395.212
97.0595.319
97.1295.418
97.2195.517
95.623
95.720
95.812
95.99
96.04
96.13
96.22

 

Well comparing 200 lapua 223 cases with 200 ADI cases we have the following. (Weights are in grains)

Personally i'm very impressed with this stuff. The necks were more consistent than the lapua (although the lapua starts off thicker). The flash holes are near perfect except for the burrs (easily removed) and the weight is more consistent. The primer pockets were near perfect depth from the start with very little removed during the uniforming process. The cases had a chamfer on them and the length variation was about 4 thou which was less than the Lapua.

And it's half the price of the Lapua.

The proof though is in the usage. We will need to see how it performs.

 

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But wait, there's more:

final neck turn

The final neck turn

With all 200 cases fireformed I ran all of the cases through my forster bushing die with the bushing screwed all the way down.

Luckily it sized small enough but I also have a standard neck die that I could have used if the bushing wasn't tight enough.

After a trim to get them all to the same length again I expanded the necks followed by a re-turning of the necks.

I turned far enough to cut into the shoulder of the case but not enough for it to be dangerous. The angle of the cutter closely matched the angle of the case shoulder so i've cut less than it appears I have.

final chamfering

The final chamfering

After finishing with the necks I gave the primer pockets another go with the uniformer. Sometimes you will find that they just clean up and sometimes you will actually remove material that you hadn't removed the first time.

final primer pocket uniforming

The final primer pocket uniforming

At the end of it all we have fully prepped and fireformed cases ready for business.

final product

The final product

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