Case head separation


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Kyle M.
October 9, 2012, 11:04 AM
I am pretty new to rifle reloading the only rifle I load for is my ruger No.1 in .375 H&H, I've been loading for it for almost a month and all is going well so far. Now my issue, I've been using the paperclip method to check for case head separation and have found nothing so far, that being said none of my brass has over three firings on it. My issue is that I was in my lgs talking to an employee in the reloading department. He told me what I'm doing is unsafe and I'm headed for serious injury or death from a case head separation if I don't change my ways and buy this fancy $110 rcbs case gauge he was trying to sell me. Now my question is is this guy serious or is he just trying to scare me into spending big money? From speaking to others it seems to me that this guy was just blowing smoke so he could make a sale, which he didn't. Thanks for any tips or advice.

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45lcshooter
October 9, 2012, 11:29 AM
Im sure your have a good reloading manual with pictures and measurements, and a good set of calipers. Just watch for the bright colored ring out the outside of the case, ive reloaded the same 20 30-30 shells 4 times in one day to see what results i would get, and none of them had signs of head case seperation. Im sure if your makeing your loads on the hot side that will speed the process of head case seperation along(using logic). But my rule of thumb is always always have more brass than what your need, for the cases that go bad.

Walkalong
October 9, 2012, 11:45 AM
Sounds like you are being safe to me. Folks who do not check, and especially those who are pushing the shoulder back too far, are the ones who get into trouble.

With that RCBS tool you can prolong case life by pushing the shoulder back only as much as needed, but there are cheap ways to do that as well. It's a nice tool, as are others out there, but there are several options to choose from.

Check out this thread (http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=504759).

MutinousDoug
October 9, 2012, 11:48 AM
Closed breech guns are pretty easy on brass compared to semi-autos and if you are sizing and trimming your brass to spec or better yet to fit the chamber of your No 1 then using a paperclip feeler gauge will adequately warn you of impending case head separation.
I suspect you will see split case necks before head separation if you do not induce headspace issues by oversizing your brass.
HTH

ReloaderFred
October 9, 2012, 11:50 AM
Premature case head separation is normally caused by excessive headspace, which can be induced by the sizing process if the shoulder is set back too far. With the shoulder set back more than about .002" in a bolt action or falling block rifle, when the case expands to fill the void between the shoulder of the case and the shoulder of the chamber, it pulls brass from the weakest point in the case, which is usually where the case wall meets the case head.

If you've set up your sizing die correctly, you'll get normal case life, but if you set it up incorrectly, then either the case won't chamber, or it will be loose in the chamber, depending on which way the error is.

It sounds like you've probably set your sizing die up correctly, though. If you're only shooting these rounds in one bolt action or falling block rifle, you can get away with not setting the shoulder back at all during the sizing process for target shooting, essentially neck sizing them, but for hunting you'd want the round to chamber easily, so setting the shoulder back the .002" would be proper.

Hope this helps.

Fred

Kyle M.
October 9, 2012, 11:51 AM
I am also keeping my loads on the light side to extend brass life, and also because I don't have any reason to push the envelope.

Kyle M.
October 9, 2012, 11:58 AM
Premature case head separation is normally caused by excessive headspace, which can be induced by the sizing process if the shoulder is set back too far. With the shoulder set back more than about .002" in a bolt action or falling block rifle, when the case expands to fill the void between the shoulder of the case and the shoulder of the chamber, it pulls brass from the weakest point in the case, which is usually where the case wall meets the case head.

If you've set up your sizing die correctly, you'll get normal case life, but if you set it up incorrectly, then either the case won't chamber, or it will be loose in the chamber, depending on which way the error is.

It sounds like you've probably set your sizing die up correctly, though. If you're only shooting these rounds in one bolt action or falling block rifle, you can get away with not setting the shoulder back at all during the sizing process for target shooting, essentially neck sizing them, but for hunting you'd want the round to chamber easily, so setting the shoulder back the .002" would be proper.

Hope this helps.

Fred

I screwed the sizing die in until it touched the shellholder, then went about another 1/4 turn if not a little less. It seems to me that my No.1 has a pretty tight chamber, being that fired cases will drop free and drop right back in with no force, they also don't seem to be stretching most of the time.

GLOOB
October 9, 2012, 03:13 PM
I have found a practical use for my .223 case gauge.

I no longer case gauge every piece of brass. If it was fired from my gun, already, I only do spot checks, unless I run into problems with a batch. Heck, my unsized brass passes the case gauge nearly all of the time.

What I always gauge are any new range pickups, before sizing. If they're significantly long, I trash them. I don't even try to size back down, because they're now weakened. And I can't do the paper clip test. Experience has shown that I can't feel at least 6 out of 7 incipient separations in a .223 case with the paper clip test, and there's nothing to say that the one in seven that I threw out would have even separated. :)

But with your rifle, I somehow highly doubt you're finding range pickups on a regular basis. The one thing you might like to try is put one of your FIRED cases into the gauge to do a before and after. This is a roundabout way to check your rifle's headspace, if you don't have the proper gauges. If you have excessive headspace, then you ought to be adjusting your die so you're not oversizing. A case gauge is useful because it sorta indirectly measures your headspace on a fired case, and it measured your die/setting on a sized case.

But with a bolt action, there's a cheaper way. You can back your die off little by little until your cases just barely chamber. That way you can find the spot where you're bumping the shoulders back just enough. If your headspace is tight, you can basically FLR all the way without any problem. Anyway, you'll find out soon enough. If you experience a separation in brass that has been fired only out of your rifle, then you will know your headspace is excessive and/or your die oversizes.

my No.1 has a pretty tight chamber, being that fired cases will drop free and drop right back in with no force, they also don't seem to be stretching most of the time
That doesn't tell you anything about your chamber. It just shows your load isn't overpressure. If you fire a moderate pressure load in a rifle, it will always easily chamber in the same rifle for at least a couple loadings, no matter how big the chamber is. This is the whole idea behind neck sizing. The only way to measure your headspace is by comparing the before and after cases in a gauge (or expert use of calipers), or by using a headspace gauge. Or you could be relatively confident your headspace is tight by noticing that some of your own modestly used brass is still snug on the bolt even after FLR.

Also, as others have noted, a separation isn't necessarily dangerous. My initial batch of 223 cases had a lot of bad apples (most of which I could have gotten rid of if I used the case gauge on them before sizing). I got to the point where if I experienced a stoppage, I'd automatically clear the head and jack another round in/out to extract the case, and keep shooting without missing a beat. I never felt so much as a puff of smoke on my cheek, and that's out of a bullpup.

TonyT
October 9, 2012, 04:19 PM
You were being fed a load of bull! Since you are using the cases in the same rifle, make sure you do not set back the shoulder upon resizing and the H&H brass will last a lot longer.

Kyle M.
October 9, 2012, 06:23 PM
You were being fed a load of bull! Since you are using the cases in the same rifle, make sure you do not set back the shoulder upon resizing and the H&H brass will last a lot longer.
Will do, and yes I'm only using it in this rifle and I don't plan on that changing as I have no reason to have two .375 H&H's. I also talked to my local gunsmith today and he had several .300 win mag cases in his scrap bin that exhibited the bright ring and you could feel the internal grooving with a paper clip. I brought those home with me so I can get a feel for iminent separations. Although I'm still gonna keep checking mine after every firing no reason not to as it takes little time and I usually don't shoot more than 20 on any given day. I'd rather take the extra time being safe than hustle along so I can go shooting again.

Walkalong
October 9, 2012, 10:26 PM
What I always gauge are any new range pickups, before sizing. If they're significantly long, I trash them.That's a good idea.

Walkalong
October 9, 2012, 10:28 PM
I screwed the sizing die in until it touched the shellholder, then went about another 1/4 turn if not a little less.Try 1/8 more instead of 1/4 more and see if they chamber easily. If they do, leave it there, or perhaps even try even a little less.

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