223 issue


June 19, 2012, 11:38 PM
HELP! I've been reloading for a couple years now and never had an issue until this week. Purchased a set of 223 dies and reloaded up a few rounds with SMK 69gr bullets over 25gr of Varget. This was using once fired Federal brass from my gun. I have fired several hundred factory rounds through this rifle (Handirifle) without issue to date. What could be cases to crack/break like this?


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Bush Pilot
June 19, 2012, 11:41 PM
The problem is that it's Federal brass.

June 19, 2012, 11:59 PM
What OAL? And which type of sizing die are you using, FL, SB, neck ( not recomended)? It appears to me it may be a head spacing issue. I would make sure shoulders aren't getting pushed back to far, and also make sure the bullets aren't too close to, or possibly touching the lands.

Just for the heck of it post a pick of the case heads. I'm interested to see if their is obvious evidense of a pressure issue. And one more thing I would do is pull down some of the other rounds to check the powder charge weight, and if possible make sure you didn't accidentally use the wrong powder. I don't know, that does look really bad.

June 20, 2012, 12:07 AM
FL sizing and OAL is 2.26" which is specified in my Lyman manual. All brass was trimmed to spec before loading. Pretty confident it wasn't over pressure but I can get a pic of the head tomorrow and post it. 100% certain on my powder was correct and didn't exceed the published max. As for the federal brass, I did have a couple of LC cases that were also loaded with the same specs and they have a mark on the brass but didn't appear to crack the case.

June 20, 2012, 12:11 AM
Bush Pilot,

What does the Federal brass have to do with it? I've reloaded Fed's before, never had any problems like this!

June 20, 2012, 12:17 AM
The Hodgdon website indicates for a 69gr bullet, 26gr (compressed) of Varget is the MAX load. Since all rifles are not equal, maybe 25gr of Varget is too much? Suggest you pull down the loaded rounds and check your loading. Also suggest you work up a load from the starting charge of 24gr. One grain of powder doesn't seem like much, but it is.

June 20, 2012, 01:01 AM
Springy action and sized/set back too much/far?

ole farmerbuck
June 20, 2012, 06:11 AM
How many times have the cases been loaded? I have fed and LC cases that I know that have been loaded 15 times.

June 20, 2012, 06:32 AM
Excess head space.

June 20, 2012, 07:34 AM
Get a case gage, e.g., Wilson, for setting up your sizing die. If this is a single shot or bolt rifle, you can neck size only for several cycles before f.l. sizing is necessary. As everybody else said, be sure about your powder charge. Also, the fact that the manual specified an o.a.l. of 2.260" is irrelevant to your particular rifle. IF I loaded some to 2.260" for some of my ARs, I'd be HARD into the lands.

June 20, 2012, 08:41 AM
Headspace problem. For your Handirifle you need to back the die out so you dont push the shoulder back as far when FL sizing.

June 20, 2012, 08:44 AM
Honestly I believe it's an overload for this rifle/brass, not a big fan of federal brass as another poster stated.With that rifle neck sizing should work fine, try another brass and back down on the load.

June 20, 2012, 09:14 AM
Break action rifles like your's spring a bit when fired, that makes cases stretch more than normally. IF your new sizer die is on the smallish side AND you rammed the once fired cases as deeply into it as possible you set the shoulders too far back. When fired the second time, the web was stretched passed it's elastic limits and pulled apart. So, your seperations have nothing to do with OAL or exessive pressure as such. Neck sizing might help but then again it may increase the effort to close the action on new rounds than you might like.

Learn to set your FL die so you can snug but easily close the action on resized cases and reduce the charge a bit just to reduce the action flex. You should be able to get 3-4 loadings before seperations occur. And you DON'T want seperations to occur, they can be quite hazardous! You would do well to learn how to use a stiff steel wire to check for internal signs of impending seperation and do it on every case, every time you load them.

Federal cases are a tad softer than other brands. They're designed that way to slow the work hardening that leads to early case failure due to splits or seperations by repeated reloading; works too. Federal is very good brass for reloading IF we know what we're doing, it's certainly strong enough to contain normal SAAMI pressures quite safely and repeatedly.

June 20, 2012, 09:28 AM
There was a thread just like this a couple of months ago but it was a 243.

June 20, 2012, 10:32 AM
I believe it is headspace too. Here is a link on how to measure headspace in your gun. You can just readjust your dies untill you are bumping the shoulder back just enough to be able to close the action.


June 21, 2012, 08:31 AM
Thanks everyone for the advise. I suspected headspace myself but wasn't positive. Looks like this one is going back into the safe for awhile until I figure out what to do with it.

June 21, 2012, 08:45 AM
You may be able to use your FL die adjusted up off the shellholder to lengthen the case. I would leave the die backed off the shellholder 2 turns until you found the adjustment you need. You may find short brass life with it. You could load low pressure loads with fast powder & only neck size for it.

June 21, 2012, 05:18 PM
I had a similar issue with my ar15. I was using once fired LC brass, fired from my ar15. I had the same type of case separation as the pic above shows. I had 2 of them in 20 rounds. I brought the gun to the local gunsmith and he checked the chamber and found that it was over spec. He said he inserted the field gauge and it swallowed it up. I am pretty sure he was checking the chamber diameter not headspace. He did check my reloaded ammo with his case gauge and found I was bumping the shoulder back about .006" too much. He said the combination of the oversized chamber with the excessive headspace was creating the separation.

I too had fired several hundred factory LC 5.56 rounds without any issues. I bought a wilson case gauge and the fired cases from my ar15 would only fit about 2/3rds the way in. I checked some of my .223 bolt action fired cases and they all fit. I've checked several fired cases from other guns and they all fit in the case gauge. I bought the AR15 new but it was pieced together with various parts. Unfortunatley I did not know to check chamber/headspace. I made the assumption that the factory would have at least checked the barrel chamber diameter. Now I have to buy a new barrel.


June 21, 2012, 05:56 PM
Its possible that just moving the die up may cause more problems. Some reloading presses may spring on sizing, even with the small 223 brass. Then there maybe slop in the linkage. There could be .008" difference between the head to datum line on the sized brass. This is because the shell holder is not making contact with the die, & there is no "cam over". If this is a problem, buy the Redding competition shell holder set, as a way to fix it. Makes every die a custom die!

Now you can control headspace. The new Redding Competition Shellholders are packaged in five piece sets in .002” increments (+.002”, +.004”. +.006”, +.008” and +.010”). Each shellholder has a distinct black oxide finish and is clearly marked to indicate the amount it will decrease case-to-chamber headspace. You can now easily adjust the shoulder bump to customize cases to your specific chamber.

June 22, 2012, 07:10 PM
On my 308 loadings I actually leave a space of .015 from the top of the shell holder to the bottom of the sizing die. I use an automotive blade gage. Now I attribute this to the fact that I use 308 rounds in my LR 308 7.62X51MM barrel. I always try to gage the shoulder push back to the chamber dimensions.

I also think the root of the failure is due to excessive head spacing.

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