I Sure Could Use Some Help


February 5, 2008, 09:50 AM
I have a problem and could use some help.

Background: I am finished loading 600 rounds of .380 using once fired brass with a Remington 88gr FMJ. The charge was 3.4gr of Win 231 with an OAL of 0.971

Method: Decapped and resized each brass case. All of these cases freely went into the case gauge pictured below and freely fell out. The case was belled just a little bit and powder charge done. Bullet was seated to a depth of 0.971, and a crimp applied just enough to allow the finished bullet to slip into the case gauge.

All loading was done on a Dillon 550b using Dillon Carbide dies. Charges were verified with a Lymann digital scale.

Problem: After loading all the rounds I did my final inspection for cracks and such as I case gauged them. 40%
of the finished bullets did NOT fall into the case completely as shown below:

The gun these were loaded for is a Sig Sauer p230. Below is a picture of a factory round, Corbon DPX. It slips in and out freely. Below that picture is one of the rounds I made, it slips in and out of the chamber freely, but not the case gauge.

Corbon DPX :

88gr Remington loaded by me:

Question: Are these rounds safe to fire? They fit nicely into the chamber yet they fail to fit all the way into the case gauge. Can I determine if they are safe for firing by loading up magazines and cycling the rounds into the chamber? Any explanation why they fit the chamber but not the gauge?

I chronographed some of the rounds that case gauged all the way and my load is moderate at 881 FPS and no difficulties to extract.

Many Thanks !!

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February 5, 2008, 10:10 AM
My short answer is I don't know for certain.

In one picture it looks like a very heavy crimp, may just be the way the light is hitting it. If its crimped that much it may bulge the case some but still good enough to fit your chamber.

If you are certain of your loads shoot them and see if they work.

February 5, 2008, 10:37 AM
That picture looks like a heavy crimp but it isn't. The crimp is just enough to restore the case after it's belled.

February 5, 2008, 11:04 AM
I suspect the ones that do not fall freely into your max cart gauge have a very slight belling at the case base. Try closely observing the drop into the gauge, and you might be able to tell if the cartridge is binding there--or just where it is hanging up.

I think this happens simply because all sizing dies (that I know of) simply can't resize the very bottom; the sizer has to be radiused a bit to allow some flexibility for starting the case into the die--and the brass flows to the base, so to speak.

Were your once-fired cases reloads using 231 powder for that original charge? I've also found that 231 peaked fast enough to produce some minor bulging at the base in 380 and 9 mm, not to mention others.

If this were my predicament, and I was certain of the charge weights, then I would go ahead and shoot them. FWIW, both the factory and the reloaded cartridges project beyond the barrel hood more than I like--you might want to confirm your chamber and leade cleanliness.

Jim H.

February 5, 2008, 11:07 AM
It may be the bullet itself is hitting the case gage throat, as well as the Leade in the barrel.
Your picture seems to show the full diameter of the bullet quite a ways forward of the case mouth before the curved bullet profile kicks in.

It also appears they do not "fit nicely in the chamber", but are in fact not seating fully by at least the thickness of the case rim.

They should drop fully into the chamber with the back of the round even with the back of the barrel.
In the picture, they do not.

Try "coloring" a few with a black Magic Marker.
Then seat them in the gage, and the barrel, with thumb pressure as far as possible.

Where the "Black" scratches off is where your problem is.

As for safe to shoot?
Not if they are being jammed into the barrel's rifling Leade before the slide is fully closed.


February 5, 2008, 11:21 AM
I stand corrected--sort of. rcmodel called out a second issue--the seating depth of the bullet, and pointed out a real problem: if your bullet is jamming into the lead before the slide is fully closed, there are consequences....

Look closer at that seating depth of the bullet, as well as that chamber / barrel cleanliness. Is the LOA you chose the one that has to be to load properly, or is there some other criteria you used?

Jim H.

Harley Quinn
February 5, 2008, 11:45 AM
It appears to me that the depth and design of the bullet is the problem. I would seat the bullet deeper. The test is the chamber you are going to fire it in. If you have the bullet in the chamber and tap it slightly and the bullet is touching it will show the marks left on the bullet I would think. Use a magnifing glass and run several in and see it you can find similar marks on the bullets.

Bottom line is to set the bullet deeper, should not be very hard to do.


Mal H
February 5, 2008, 11:51 AM
You say, "That picture looks like a heavy crimp but it isn't."

I have to agree with presspuller, that certainly looks like a very heavy crimp to me also. The bullet even looks a little deformed at the mouth from the crimp, but that could be an optical illusion. What are the striations at the mouth? They look to be about 3 times longer than a normal crimp might make.

February 5, 2008, 11:53 AM
How did you settle on that figure for oal?
My older Lyman's shows only 1 bullet in that weight.....90 grain actually..and the oal is shows as 0.925

Just wondering how you decided to use that setting.I think you're just seating the bullet too far out.

February 5, 2008, 11:54 AM
Bottom line is to set the bullet deeper, should not be very hard to do.It's gonna be hard to do if they are crimped as much as they look like they are.
I Betcha! :what:


February 5, 2008, 11:57 AM
Yep. That is a serious crimp. :what:

February 5, 2008, 12:08 PM
I have to agree, that looks like a very heavy crimp. Also, Winchester recommends a COL of .955" for a 90gr bullet using W231.

February 5, 2008, 12:23 PM
I suggest you first size a few cases, then drop them into the gage, to eliminate the sizing die. You can also insert a loaded cartridge base-first, to eliminate any physical distortion of the rim, and to see if the base of the cases are small enough.
I suspect excessive crimp and long OAL are the culprits.

February 5, 2008, 04:44 PM
Thanks for all the suggestions. I will try and sort them out as this really puzzles me. Dillonhelp mentions excessive crimp......I have only crimped enough to allow the completed bullet to enter into the case gauge, any less crimp doesn't remove enough of the bell.

Seating the bullet any deaper "bows" the base of the bullet out and it is completely too large for the gauge at any point.

I have taken a couple of pictures with the bullet in the P230 chamber and with the marker colorings as suggested

Number 1: shows where the bullet touches in the P230 chamber, I circled it for clarity.

Number 2: shows where the bullet stops in the case gauge. I pushed firmly to enhance the mark.


A couple of questions? Would a bit more crimp help? Why do the finished bullets seem to slide in and out of the chamber easily, but definately tighter in case gauge?

The next two pictures show the rounds in the chamber. These rounds drop in freely, they also fall out freely. Factory rounds look and feel the same as these when going in the chamber.



1200 meters
February 5, 2008, 04:54 PM
Don't shoot them without a good set of Glasses. You must know that the "unsupported" strip of brass is not protected against the blast and may separate there along that line. Blitz

February 5, 2008, 05:19 PM
I just applied a bit more crimp to 10 rounds and they all fall freely into the chamber gauge. I can't see where the brass at the mouth is "biting" into the jacket. I have added just 3 more pictures to see if this helps.

I don't see a HEAVY crimp, what are the consequences of too much crimp? Does this skyrocket the chamber pressure?



February 5, 2008, 05:23 PM
I'm grabbing a bit at straws here--but is there any chance you have bought some bullets that were sized at .357 (i.e., for use in a 38/357) rather than in a .380 / 9mm? Have you put the caliper to these to check the diameter?

As for bulging at the base--that would fit with the excessive diameter, but the use of a Lee FCD die for post-sizing would probably make the cartridge usable.

Since you've tried deeper seated bullets here (and I am not worried about excessive pressures with this load if this is a newer / modern pistol) and found binding in the MAX cart gauge, what happened when you tested them in the chamber?

Jim H.

February 5, 2008, 05:28 PM
Actually those cases in the photo are fully supported in the SIG.
The only part still showing is the thick case web around the primer pocket.

.380 ACP CASE:

When a pistol case blows, it blows out the thin sidewall in an unsupported chamber.
Not out through the thicker head section.

Your extra crimp now makes the cases appear to be bottle-necked in the photos.

I think your only hope of salvaging 600 rounds like that is a Lee Carbide Factory Crimp Die. It will resize the whole case & bullet where it is distorted and hanging up.

If that don't work, you need a bullet puller and lots of time!


February 5, 2008, 05:31 PM
I am finished loading 600 rounds of .380 using once fired brass with a Remington 88gr FMJ... with an OAL of 0.971

Didn't anyone else notice this? The pics show a JHP, not a FMJ.

So..... First of all, you're loading a JHP to the same OAL length you say is for a FMJ. That places the hollow point's ogive very well out into the chamber leade. A JHP has an OAL that is shorter than a FMJ. So your bullet is not seated deep enough and it could be hitting the lands.

Secondly, I think that crimp makes those cartridges look like a .357SIG. It's way too much for a taper crimp.

February 5, 2008, 05:42 PM
I wonder if the picture is distorting things. The brass mics out at 0.366 at the mouth, 0.368 middle and 0.370 at base. Do these measurements render these bullets unsafe to shoot? Reasons why?? Thank You

February 5, 2008, 06:05 PM
OKay, so I am trying to digest having a crapload of unshootable bullets. I wanted to confirm some of my measurements and much to my surprise I found THIS:

Speer .380 Gold Dot will not fit 1/2 of the way in the case gauge
Federal .380 Hydrashock will not fit 1/2 of the way in the case gauge
Corbon DPX .380 falls freely into gauge

So my question is this?? If my original loads cycle manually through the P230, the FPS is not excessive with no obvious signs of high pressure, and the powder charge is midrange, would they be safe to shoot? It seems as though this case gauge is leading me into the wrong direction.:banghead:

Mal H
February 5, 2008, 06:38 PM
Please take this in the spirit of helpfullness -
Never, ever, load up anywhere near 600 rounds for your starting load! (I can't believe I missed that figure on the first reading.) A good round number is, oh, maybe 10 or 20. Once you see how those do or don't work for you, then you either change the load a little or, if you really really like it, then you load the remaining 590.

Now, to answer your overall question: in my opinion, your 600 rounds are safe to shoot in your SIG. First of all, that is a very light load (3.4 gr. of 231 is below most published starting loads). Secondly, if the crimp is excessive as most of us feel, the SIG can take the small amount of extra pressure the load would deliver, but, again, it's a light load so I don't feel you've created 600 little bombs at all.

I find it hard to believe you aren't seeing the crimp almost all of us are seeing. It really looks excessive. Like a few have said, it makes your rounds look like bottleneck rounds. Even your measurements point in that direction.

I mic'ed some Federal Hydra-Shok .380's 90 gr., and some American Eagle 95 gr. FMJ. They both mic'ed at .374" at the mouth and .372" at the web. Your case mouths were .366" and the web was .370. The mouth of that particular caliber should equal to or slightly larger than the web dimension. Yours is smaller.

Again, with that light of a load, I would shoot one and see what happened. I honestly don't think you will have a problem. If there are no excessive pressure signs, I'd shoot em all and start over. I wouldn't try to fix the rounds you've already loaded with a Lee FC die or any other method.

February 5, 2008, 07:00 PM
Thanks Mal H,
The rub is this. I loaded 30 rounds originally and chronographed them to 881 FPS. I also made sure they cycled. Yep, I case gauged them. From that point on I never changed die settings. I would check every 50 or so charges to verify the weight, and then case gauge them. So out of the 600 I loaded , the ones tested were perfect; Good FPS with a safe charge. At the end I had a failure to fit the gauge approximately 40% of the time. Of these 40%, all go smoothly into the gun's chamber. I was getting concerned merely because the round would not go fully into the case gauge.

I appreciate the advise from everyone that has provided it. I am not taken back by your last comment Mal H. I try to be very safe when reloading. I check multiple sources for load data, use moderate loads for my handguns, read THR and chronograph all loads. I only "kick up" the progressive after the load I am going after is safe and reliable.

Mal H
February 5, 2008, 07:09 PM
Ah, good. That does make me feel a little better about your overall process.

Don't forget that case gauges are dimensioned such that rounds that fit in them will fit in every firearm manufactured to industry standards. Some chambers will be looser, like your SIG, but none should ever be tighter. So the best case gauge for everyday use is your own firearm. If a round fits in it reasonably well, who cares if it doesn't fit in a case gauge? It might mean your rounds won't work in a different firearm of the same caliber, but you won't be shooting them in that firearm anyway.

A case gauge does not measure whether a round has the correct OAL nor is it intended to.

In other words, don't put too much store in a case gauge. They do have their place, but they aren't necessarily the deciding factor of "good" ammo.

February 5, 2008, 07:09 PM
I'll have to agree with everything that MalH said. I just read this one, and right at first caught the round count.. I was about to say the same thing. MalH beat me to it.

Secondly, for the amount of crimp 'we see', I think you've been advised to make an adjustment. Measurements withstanding.

This cartridge head spaces on the case mouth, keep that in mind. Too much crimp, not enough crimp and well... you know what I mean.

I personally don't use an OAL guage for anything. I use a micrometer and the guns barrel to know what will work. Other than that, I use the bullet manufactures load data for OAL numbers. There's not a OAL guage available that can take into account all the different bullet variations on the market today. Nitesite touched on that.


February 5, 2008, 07:33 PM
Much appreciated. Can anybody speak to the consequences of excessive crimp on .380? How does it manifest? spike in pressure, Kb?

FWIW, I chose the OAL because it cycled well and was mid range for the books I resourced. I got the charge from the Hogdon web site for a 90 grain bullet. 3.4 grains of 231 is smack dab in the middle. My actual velocity was well below the stated velocity (anticipated).

Mal H
February 5, 2008, 11:34 PM
How does it [excessive crimp] manifest? spike in pressure, Kb?Hard to say precisely, there are too many variables. In general, yes, you will see a higher pressure since the case will hold the bullet a little longer before releasing causing the peak pressure to be higher. How much higher? Again, hard to tell without instrumentation.

Will they KB? Very doubtful. Don't forget we're dealing with a fairly thin brass case which has a very forgiving property in that it is quite malleable as metals go. IOW, the bullet isn't being held in a steel vise, the expanding gases will eventually have enough pressure to cause the bullet to move forward expanding the case mouth at the same time no matter how tight the crimp might be. In fact the pressure will expand the case itself to the inside diameter of the chamber - the bullet has to be freed at that time.

KB's in handguns are usually caused by one of two things, an unsupported area of the case in the chamber in conjunction with one of several other factors, and an overload of powder. Of course there are many more (e.g., headspace problem, weak area in case, excessive OAL, etc.), but those are the main two. You don't have either of those.

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