recommend a limit for # of times to reload 223 or 556 brass?


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xsquidgator
December 31, 2007, 01:33 AM
I've been reloading for not quite a year, been reloading rifle cartridges for only about the last 5-6 months of that, and .223/556 for an AR-15 for only the last month or so. I shoot just about only my own reloads at the range, maybe a magazine or so of some defensive ammo every once in a great while to be sure it works properly and so forth. So, I'm new to 223 but I think I'm learning ok.

I heard something disconcerting today from another guy at the range, something that made me wonder, so I thought I'd see what you experienced reloaders here would say. Do you put a limit, say perhaps two reloadings or something less than you would choose with other calibers, on reloading your 223/556 brass? The fellow I talked with today said he had a couple of case head separations reloading for his AR15, and now he doesn't reload any 223/556 brass of his more than about twice. He swore up and down that his blowups happened with middle of the road loads.

I know especially with higher-pressure rounds like 223, and also with rifle and bootlenecked cartridges, that you can't get as many reloads out of those as you can with straight-walled pistol cases, especially low pressure rounds like 45ACP. But does what this guy said make sense? He said he hadn't had any pressure signs before his blowups, nothing abnormal looking about his brass, nothing like that. Just about every bit of brass I have is range pickup stuff of unknown history, I discard the ones that appear too tarnished/beat up, and the ones with split cases that I can see, but that's about it. Clean 'em up and reload them. I also segregate them by headstamp and try to keep them together, but I don't know that all of my say "R-P 223" brass has only been shot once before.

Would you worry about this? Or, do you perhaps think this guy might have latched onto the wrong cause of his case head separations?

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TheGrimReaper
December 31, 2007, 01:42 AM
I usually reload it till I get a split neck. Most of my reloads get stored in a ammo can awaiting Hillary and her UN forces to invade.........

dstark
December 31, 2007, 01:45 AM
I hear you on that one grim.

ocabj
December 31, 2007, 01:51 AM
He's getting case head separations because he's sizing his brass too much with respects to headspace.

Get a headspace gauge like the Hornady (Stoney Point). Measure your fired cases. Then adjust your FL die to bump the shoulder about .002" under your fired case measurement. That should maximize case life.

I've usually get around 8 reloads before I get a case separation in .223 for the AR. When that happens in a batch of 50, I just chuck the entire batch into the recycling bucket.

armoredman
December 31, 2007, 01:53 AM
Hmm, I need a broken case remover...but I just started, and I am merciless about cases that LOOK bad.

Idano
December 31, 2007, 02:43 AM
Sorry but I have to call BS on the life of the brass was the cause for the head separation; like ocabj stated I would suspect oversizing with a small base die or improper length . I have reloaded some of my brass over ten times without any issues. Since I started using the X-die to resize I can't remember when I tossed a case for the neck being split and I have never had a head separation on a .223. Now days about the only reason I toss a case is because the primer pocket becomes too loose to hold a primer tightly.

xsquidgator
December 31, 2007, 10:25 AM
Ah ha. A sizing problem sounds more likely to me, now that you mention it. Thanks for the information.

I guess there's no way to know what MY (Lee) full length sizing die is doing to the shoulder w/o a headspace gauge, is there? I'll think about getting one then. I'm glad to find a plausible explanation that doesn't necessarily involve throwing away brass after 2 reloadings, I have a lot of pickup brass but I don't have THAT much that I could get rid of it so quickly.

Shaner
December 31, 2007, 10:45 AM
Sorry but I have to call BS on the life of the brass was the cause for the head separation; like ocabj stated I would suspect oversizing with a small base die or improper length

I'm with Idano to a certain degree on this. The other explaination to case head separation on a reloaded round is that he may be loading too hot.

Tossing out good brass after a couple of reloadings is quite excessive IMO. If you REALLY want to maximize brass life to keep costs down, there are two key items you can do.

1. Neck size only your brass after fireforming them. This will greatly increase your accuracy and you'll only be reforming the neck. The rest of the case will be untouched. No need for full length resizing brass AFTER fireforming the ones you pick up from the range.

2. Anneal your brass. There's quite a few threads on this subject on www.thefiringline.com It's THR's sister site. There may be some here but I'm too new here to verify that info.

Hope this helps...

Shaner
December 31, 2007, 10:46 AM
One thing that I failed to mention is that you don't have to buy a neck sizing die. I do, but you can get the same results using your full length die. That way, you're not out any $$$.

Ol` Joe
December 31, 2007, 10:52 AM
Properly sized with minimal shoulder set back and brass should last a long time. I toss all my brass of any caliber including 223 at 10-12 loadings just because I don`t want to find mouth splits. I`ve never had a seperation and almost never find a split mouth.
Primer pockets being loose would be a pressure problem in my opinion. Drop a 1/2 gr in your charge and you`ll likely never see them again and only loose 50 fps or so at max, nothing you will notice.

trickyasafox
December 31, 2007, 12:27 PM
my 223 gets full length sized every time, as it goes through 3 different guns (2 ARs) and I really am not that motivated to separate brass per rifle.

i've gotten 5-6 loadings so far without issues.

Roadkill
December 31, 2007, 12:35 PM
I keep a few thousand on hand, haven't worked my way through them the first time yet much less second ect. Just keep two drawers full - once loaded, one not. After I shoot I put them in the second drawer. When the top is empty I'll start all over again.

ocabj
December 31, 2007, 12:52 PM
I forgot I wrote and posted this recently, but this is relevant to the topic:

http://www.inlandshooters.net/index.php?contentid=99

xsquidgator
December 31, 2007, 01:25 PM
Senior Member


Join Date: 01-22-03
Location: Riverside, CA
Posts: 2,288

I forgot I wrote and posted this recently, but this is relevant to the topic:

http://www.inlandshooters.net/index.php?contentid=99

That's really great, thanks for the pictures and explanation.

One other thing to throw in the mix that's kind of relevant, maybe... I am shooting a 5.56-chambered Bushmaster XM15. However, my dies and case-length gauge and trimmer (Lee thingy that checks length and trims in one step) are for 223 Remington. I believe (and please correct me if I have it wrong) that the OAL for a 556 cartridge is about 0.080" longer than the OAL for the same projectile loaded in a 223 Remingtion cartridge. From the various readings I've done, the military 556 chamber is longer, looser, or roomier to make military 556 weapons less picky about chambering ammunition with varying tolerances. And if I understand what I've read, it's safe and fine to shoot 223 ammo in a 556 chamber, there may be a slight loss of accuracy because of the extra leade between the bullet and the rifling, but that's it. It wouldn't be ok to put 556 ammo in a 223-chambered rifle though b/c the cartridge would be too long probably, and might lead to overpressure, if the bolt was able to get closed behind the 556 round.

Now, when I shoot a 223 reload in my 556-chambered Bushmaster, is this going to cause the shoulder of the case to move an extraordinary amount? I wouldn't think so, 0.080" of movement I think would be too much. My hunch is that the extra length of a 556 cartridge is in the neck area, and that from the shoulder to the base a 556 case is identical to a 223 case, well in terms of the outside dimensions anyway (I know 556 cases are thicker and thus have a little less internal volume).

Do I have this part of things right? If so, then it shouldn't be any big deal whether I reload 223 brass or 556 brass using my 223 Remington loading equipment. I have a nagging worry that maybe using 223 reloading equipment is squeezing down my cases fired in 556 chambers excessively, which could reduce the life of the case? Please tell me I need not worry... :uhoh:

Coltdriver
December 31, 2007, 01:37 PM
The other thing that is worth considering is the quality of the brass your shooting range buddy is using. Not that I would buy Lapua to cycle through my AR but it is a fact that not all brass is created equally.

ocabj
December 31, 2007, 04:51 PM
Do I have this part of things right? If so, then it shouldn't be any big deal whether I reload 223 brass or 556 brass using my 223 Remington loading equipment. I have a nagging worry that maybe using 223 reloading equipment is squeezing down my cases fired in 556 chambers excessively, which could reduce the life of the case?

One of the advantages of reloading is that you can control the characteristics of your ammo. In the case of headspace, you control the headspace of your ammo. Headspace between 5.56 NATO and .223 Remington (SAAMI) is different enough to be dangerous in some situations. But using .223 Remington dies to size for a 5.56 NATO chamber is perfectly fine since 1) .223 is safe to fire in 5.56 chambers and 2) you can modify the resulting headspace of your handloads through die adjustments.

As far as brass quality, .223 brass is for the most part equal in quality as long as you stick to major brands.

I currently use Lapua brass for my 600 yard High Power competition loads and LC brass for the 200/300 yard loads. I use LC for my practice loads. I like WCC when I can find it in any decent quantity. Winchester is good brass. I know many who like Remington (R-P) but most of the guys I know that use it are shooting it out of bolt guns. PMC brass is surprisingly good, at least from the stuff I've used a few years ago.

Hoosier Reloader
January 1, 2008, 11:24 AM
My experience has been that if you take care of your brass & watch your pressures you should get about 8-10 loading cycles before recycling it.
I've been handloading .223 Rem for about three years & shoot almost every weekend. Both of my AR's are chambered for .223 Rem/5.56 NATO. I started loading using LC mil brass, which is heavier brass, & I bought several hundred unfired R-P cases. I don't know how many times my brass has been loaded but I check for neck splits & other defects (case thinning at the head) before sizing. I FL size & trim the length on all my brass & never had case head separation. A brass catcher keeps the brass from getting beat-up.

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