Hard to close a bolt on a reload


February 17, 2008, 06:01 AM
I was at the range yesterday testing powder loads in 223 in a bolt action rifle and some of the rounds were harder than others to close the bolt on.

The reloads were all resized full length in a RCBS die. COL was checked to 2.25. All case lengths were under 1.755 before resizing.

I removed one of the cartridges and didn't see any noticable marks on it.

Any ideas?

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February 17, 2008, 07:05 AM
My first guess would be they were not sized enough. Were they shot out of your gun previously? Next I would check crimping, you don't really need it with that round anyway. You can blacken a cartridge with candle soot and see where it is tight.

Dave P
February 17, 2008, 07:20 AM
long headspace??

uk roe hunter
February 17, 2008, 07:21 AM
I have had to have a very thgin slice off the back of my lee pace setter fl resizing die for my 7mm 08. it seems my remmy model 7 has a very short cambre and the shoulder needs pushing back that tiny bit further on it's reloaded ammo.
HAVE A LOOK AT YOUR BRASS IF IT HAS MARKS ON THE SHOULDER WHERE IT HAS BEEN PUSHED BACK THEN THATS YOUR PROBLEM. this can be te,porarily fixed by puting a slice of beer can in your shell holder under the case. De prime first.


February 17, 2008, 08:04 AM
Either your case O.A.L. is too long(you could possibly have a short throat, not likely), or you are not sizing the base down enough(see above suggestions), or you are not moving the shoulder back enough(see above suggestions), or your crimp is causing a problem.

It could be your press has enough flex in it and you have a short chamber and the two are adding up on you. I have seen where folks have had to shave a bit off of sizer dies, but the manufacturer would be happy to replace it if this is the problem. Make sure your shell holder is going all the way up to the sizer and try again. Shell holders can be out of spec as well. Lets say you have a short, in spec, but short, chamber, a size die that is in spec, but long, and a shell holder on the big end of specs. It could all add up the some rounds being hard to chamber.

Pull a bullet on one of them that was hard to chamber and see if that solves the problem. If it does, look at the crimp adjustment. Smoke or blacken that unloaded case to see where it is binding and then go from there.

February 17, 2008, 09:59 AM
I had the same problem in a winchester model 70., two sets of 243 dies, really tight to close the bolt. I took one sizing die about .010 off the bottom and everything is fine now.

February 17, 2008, 11:36 AM
Does the FL resized brass (unloaded, just the brass, no primer, no powder, no bullet) chamber properly? If yes, your problem is with one of the other loading steps.

Is the case trimmed to the proper length for your gun?

Measuring COL may not mean anything if you are using a bullet with a different ogive profile than that stated in the manual. You could be nesting into the lands with your loaded round causing a tight chambering. This could be a dangerous situation as pressures can spike quickly. I make a "master" round for all my rifles with a bullet seated in an empty cartridge at the seating depth I want for that load. I will generally end up less than 0.010" off the lands and keep the master for setting up the seat die.

Are you crimping? An excessive crimp can bulge the case and/or the bullet and cause a tight chambering problem too. You might try using your load single shot without a crimp to see if it has the same problem. Then try it with a crimp and see if you get a difference.

Jake in TX
February 17, 2008, 12:15 PM
+1 on checking if a resized case chambers easily. I do this with my neck sized cases to determine when it is time to full length size.

Jake in TX

February 17, 2008, 12:55 PM
You don't really need to crimp for a bolt-action .223 anyway.

If you are crimping, don't, and see if that helps.

Sounds more to me like you don't have your sizing die adjusted properly to take up all the slack & spring in your press.

Adjust the die down tight against the shell holder, then give it another 1/4 to 1/2 turn until you can feel the ram bumping the shell holder at full travel and I imagine your problem will fix itself.


February 17, 2008, 01:21 PM
I recently had this issue with a new rifle....i did not check my dies first however. Make sure you have the die turned down enough to set the shoulder back enough...i was off by 1/2 turn and was not able to chamber some of my rounds

February 17, 2008, 05:38 PM
You guys know some stuff.

Ok here's the answer.

The die wasn't installed low enough to touch the shell plate. I unlock the locking nut, raised the shellplate and screwed in the die till it touched, then locked the locking nut.

I resized a empty case and put it into the bolt action with it being a loaded cartridge and it was fine. I put in a previous empty case based on the old die height setting and it was tight.

One more question, will this issue be a problem in a semi auto like an AR as I already have some rounds loaded up on the old die height setting?

I haven't noticed any issues with the AR, but then, it loads itself.

February 17, 2008, 05:53 PM
Very likely it could be a problem in the AR.
They have no primary cam power like a bolt action, and if it don't close, it don't close.

You might find some that are hard to close in the bolt-action, but don't force them to close, and then try them in the AR and see if they will chamber or not.
If you force them to close in the bolt gun, you may accidently resize them enough to work in the AR.


February 17, 2008, 06:00 PM
Well, I have actually shot a few hundred of these reloads in the AR and never noticed an issue with the bolt closing. So as far as I know, the AR is more accepting of a longer thoated casing.

I don't have the dimensions on 5.56mm, but isn't it different as far as the length goes compared to the .223, which I was/am resizing my cases for?

February 17, 2008, 06:08 PM
Yes, the 5.56 chamber has a longer throat, but you are not talking about a throat problem.

You are dealing with a headspace problem.

Apparently, if they work in the AR but not the bolt gun, the AR has a little looser headspace then the bolt gun.


February 18, 2008, 12:47 PM
I find this thread very interesting. The only rimless case I have reloaded was the 223 in a Mini-14. I partially resized so as to not touch the shoulder or squeeze down the body and I never had a cartridge that would not chamber properly. Is this an occurence with only some rifles or were my pressures too low for this to occur? (Or maybe the Mini's heavy slide overcame any resistance). I was getting 3100 fps out of that short barrel with 55gr bullets.

I did have 'hard to close' hornet loads the other day - some bullet lube got left in the 'neck' area of the chamber.

February 18, 2008, 07:04 PM
I was talking to one of my coworkers today who is a long time reloader and he suggested that some rifles have longer headspaces than others.

rcmodel suggested the same thing:

the AR has a little looser headspace then the bolt gun

I have a Mini 14 too and I never had any trouble with it on the same reloading stock.

February 19, 2008, 12:27 PM
A case Guage is a must head space and shoulder size are easy to get wrong.
I use a case guage when setting up my resizing dye to make sure I get started right to start with then check again after a few rounds to make sure nothing has moved.

Vern Humphrey
February 19, 2008, 01:01 PM
Possible causes of hard-to-close-bolt:

Shoulder not set back far enough. Screw the die in farther, or, if necessary, take a little metal off the base of the die.

Shoulder pulled forward by the expander ball on the down-stroke. Try a smidgen of lubrication in the case mouth.

Neck too long, jamming in the chamber. Trim cases.

Bullet set out too far and jaming in the rifling. Screw seating screw in a bit.

February 19, 2008, 01:10 PM
Sounds like the problem is fixed. Just be careful to keep it off the lands and grooves. That is a bad situation to be in particularly if you are loading higher velocities because the pressures will be sky high. You can always smoke a bullet and case to find out where the problem is.

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