Are Headspace Gauges Necessary?


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G11354
July 10, 2013, 06:25 PM
Im loading .223/5.56 brass for my AR-15 and was wondering if a headspace gauge is required or not?

I find a lot of conflicting information on the topic. Some saying its not required in any way, others say it a serious safety hazard to not use them.

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Shmackey
July 10, 2013, 06:36 PM
Are you referring to one of these (http://www.midwayusa.com/product/456614/le-wilson-case-length-headspace-gage-223-remington)?

If so, they are not completely necessary, but boy they sure do save a lot of time and make life simpler.

We probably don't technically need toilet paper, what with all the lawn clippings we could be using.... :)

G11354
July 10, 2013, 06:44 PM
Yes, that is the item I am referring to.

jmorris
July 10, 2013, 07:07 PM
I loaded for years without them but none of my semiautomatic competition guns fire ammunition that has not passed a case gauge.

Just one more step towards knowing your ammunition will function 100%.

GLOOB
July 10, 2013, 07:09 PM
It can be helpful. With some semiautos it's hard to tell when a round is just flush, vs just slightly long enough to put unwanted friction on the rotating bolt locking mechanism. Of course, another way to go would be to find out where the bolt just starts to fully lock, and then size at least a mic or two smaller.

For most rifles, it's pretty easy to size to the exact headspace of your gun. Isn't that better than sizing to SAAMI dimensions?

I guess the only proper way to do it is to have a chamber headspace gauge AND a case gauge. But most of us don't really need to know that much information.

About the only thing I use my 223 case gauge for is to check random pick up cases I bring home from the range. BEFORE sizing. If they're way too short or long, I scrap them, figuring they have a higher chance of casehead failure or sizing issues.

silicosys4
July 10, 2013, 07:09 PM
I by no means claim to be a reloading expert, but to this date I have been just fine by trimming to minimum case length after sizing. My understanding is that a headspace gauge is great if you have reason to believe that your headspace is off, but since headspacing is done by the manufacturer at the time of assembly(hopefully), the only real need for one is if you are barreling your own action and need to specifically know headspace as part of rebarreling.
I am more than likely wrong though.

Walkalong
July 10, 2013, 07:16 PM
Very nice to have, not an absolute necessity.

Lennyjoe
July 10, 2013, 07:17 PM
^^^^^^^^ what he said.....;)

GLOOB
July 10, 2013, 07:25 PM
If you're going to start your reloading career off by buying and processing a bunch of once-fired brass and running them thru an autoloader, then I would spring for the case gauge.

Out of 1000 OF'd cases I purchased, there were 5 that would not size all the way. They would spring back after sizing. I presume they were fired out of a gun with excessive headspace. Hence, why I now check my pickups.

thump_rrr
July 10, 2013, 08:02 PM
I size my brass at the same time as I trim it using a Dillon RT-1200 trimmer.
I use the case gauge to set the trimmer die for both pushing back the shoulder and trimming.

It's only $25.00 which these days isn't much compared to the price of some ammunition.

rayatphonix
July 10, 2013, 08:32 PM
I have them for all my bottleneck calibers. They make more sense than "screw in until you make contact with the case holder and then add 1/8 to 1/4 more rotation". I started out thinking they weren't necessary and after gaining some experience wouldn't be without them.

Walkalong
July 10, 2013, 08:42 PM
They make more sense than "screw in until you make contact with the case holder and then add 1/8 to 1/4 more rotation"Sure do. :)

rcmodel
July 10, 2013, 08:48 PM
They also weed out the long cases that buckled imperceptibly when crimped, and lock up an AR-15 tighter then a south bound gnats north end when one won't chamber.

IMO: Well worth the money to case gage every round you load for an AR or other semi-auto.

rc

cfullgraf
July 10, 2013, 09:52 PM
Case gauges are useful tools to have on hand.

But, remember that the bottle neck case gauges are not chamber gauges. They are cut genously in the body area so a case could fit the gauge but not your chamber.

The bottle neck cases gauges measure shoulder position and case length.

(Handgun cartridge case gauges are a different story).

gamestalker
July 11, 2013, 12:01 AM
I have never used them, and to date, I have never had a need. I'm sure they have a practical use for those who don't want to learn to do it by touch, which like said, has worked 100% for me.

GS

Mohave-Tec
July 11, 2013, 12:05 AM
For $25 I have gained much perspective and understanding of a rifle chamber from one of this Wilson gauges. I have them for everything I load.

rcmodel
July 11, 2013, 12:12 AM
I'm sure they have a practical use for those who don't want to learn to do it by touch,That's easy for you to say.

But have you ever loaded for an AR-15 without a foreword assist and stuck one round out of 500 in the chamber so tight it won't lock shut?
And so tight you can't open it either??

BTDT, and got an L.E. Wilson gage for .223 and check every round I load.

No more problems in the last 25 years!

rc

Walkalong
July 11, 2013, 08:46 AM
One can set their sizer up just perfect with the examples of brass they have, but then comes along that one hard springy case that sizes different and presto, it doesn't size enough to fit the chamber. An AR won't jam fit a round very much out of spec, a little, but not much. A Mini 14? I think mine will nearly take a .308 round. Well, maybe not quite. ;)

For range ammo this is at the worst embarrassing when you gun jams up, but for ammo that needs to work it's unacceptable. I learned this early on with ARs the same way rcmodel did I imagine. An almost imperceptible buckle in a shoulder from a little too hard crimp, or a case that the shoulder did not get pushed back quite enough, and you have problems.

A bolt gun? Those buggers will crush fit many mistakes.

Clark
July 11, 2013, 09:47 AM
When I was comparing different .223 dies, I ran into the problem that the headspace in the (5) .223 rifles in the test varied.

Remington registered the drawing with SAAMI.
It says the chamber should be between 1.4636 and 1.4736", = a .0100" range.
It says the cartridge should be between 1.4596 and 1.4666", = a .0070" range.

There is .0030" of overlap.

I have a Ruger #1V 223 that is .003" more headspace than minumum.
I have a Bushmaster V-match 223 that is .008" more headspace than minimum.
I have a Colt AR15 223 that is .005" more headspace than minimum.
I have a Wilson AR15 223 that is .0065" more headspace than minimum.
I have a Mauser 223 [that I cut the chamber] that is .008" more headpace than minimum.

The Wilson case gauge is a very nice tool, but it needs to be somehow related back to the rifle one is reloading for.
We would like to push the shoulder back 0.001" or 0.002".
So if you only have one rifle, you might do that.
But what will you do if you have more than one .223?
Segregate the brass?

Walkalong
July 11, 2013, 09:58 AM
That is of course true, your rifles chamber is the ultimate gauge. I like to use home made "buttons" "gauges" or whatever you want to call them to see where the shoulder is upon firing, sizing, and subsequent firings and sizing. (Bolt guns) The brass does not fully stretch to the chambers size the first firing due to pressure, brass resistance to pressure, and spring back.My little bump gauges give me an arbitrary number, but it can show me how much I am moving the shoulder, and where it started from. I can form a case to the chamber by hammering it with three or four full power loads (To the point of chambering hard), and then size a hair at a time until it chambers freely, getting useful, if not arbitrary, numbers along the way. That way I end up with a number that just does fit the chamber without binding any when chambering. I always size a hair more to give me some wiggle room.

That said, for my ARs and Mini 14, I just adjusted my sizer using the Wilson case gauge and am getting very good case life (Less in the Mini) with no chambering problems.

jmorris
July 11, 2013, 11:16 AM
That said, for my ARs and Mini 14, I just adjusted my sizer using the Wilson case gauge and am getting very good case life (Less in the Mini) with no chambering problems.

You can still use the "sneek up" method for an AR, just like everything else. That's how I had to setup the dies for my 458 socom.

HJ857
July 11, 2013, 11:37 AM
Just a note that the Wilson gauge only measure length, there is the possibility that a case that passes the Wilson gauge will not chamber in your rifle.

There are other options out there. The JP Rifles gauge is cut to .223 Wylde spec. In my use, any round that passes the JP gauge will chamber in my rifles every time. I have had rounds lock up my AR after passing a Wilson gauge.

http://www.jprifles.com/buy.php?item=JPCG-223

Dillon also makes a similar gauge. I have one in .308 and it's works for my rifle, but I can't find any references to say that it's cut to any specific spec, so it could be just like the Wilson gauge.

http://www.dillonprecision.com/content/p/9/pid/25547/catid/3/Dillon_Rifle_Case_Gages?item=4093

In any case, for me the Wilson gauge has proven to be less functional than other similar products.

Walkalong
July 11, 2013, 12:22 PM
You can still use the "sneek up" method for an AR, just like everything else. True, and I am doing that with my .300 BLK.

If one sizes to fit the gauge on .223 and gets poor case life, their chamber may be on the long side of spec, or even a hair longer. Adjust as needed, realizing the rounds may be a problem in a tighter/shorter chamber of some other rifle.

HOOfan_1
July 11, 2013, 01:27 PM
But have you ever loaded for an AR-15 without a foreword assist and stuck one round out of 500 in the chamber so tight it won't lock shut?
And so tight you can't open it either??


1 round out of about 1500....yup. My gun had a forward assist too. I might have gotten it into battery if I hammerd on the FA...but I was not about to. I couldn't get it out until I took the upper off, put a wooden dowl on the back of the bolt carrier and used a mallet to tap it out.

243winxb
July 11, 2013, 01:49 PM
http://www.lewilson.com/images/CASE_GAGE.pdf Setting up full length resizing based off fired cases LE Wilson Preferred Method:
This procedure is advised because of a tendency we have noted the last twenty years of the firearms manufacturers to use larger chamber reamers and to chamber more deeply even for rimless cartridges. We have had fired cases from factory rifles which project well above the maximum step.
1. Check your cases in as-fired condition.
2. If the head projects above the upper step, adjust your die as above to where the resized case drops even with the upper step or a little below. The idea is still to push the shoulder back as little as possible to allow easy chambering. The resized case needs only to drop .002 to .003 be-low the fired case. Needed when you have a problem. If just buying a new toy, get the Hornady unit. http://www.brownells.com/.aspx/lid=12897/GunTechdetail/Gauging_Success___Minimum_Headspace_and_Maximum_COL The Lyman case gage is said to also check body diameter in the instructions?? Some autos open before pressure has dropped. This gives a false head to datum measurement of fired brass. http://thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?p=4735231

Innovative
July 11, 2013, 02:51 PM
Case gauges are very useful - assuming your chamber (and the gauge) are both within specifications. At least you know for sure that your handloads will fit in the gauge.

However, it's always best to measure how YOUR handloads fit in YOUR particular chamber.

.

fguffey
July 12, 2013, 10:12 AM
“Case gauges are very useful - assuming your chamber (and the gauge) are both within specifications”

I am sure everyone understands what all of that means, well? Almost. First, it must be understood “Visit our website at WWW.LARRYWILLIS.COM it's devoted to helping shooters make the best handloads possible” is trying to sell something. The Wilson case gage is ‘IN SPECIFICATION’ the Wilson case gage is a datum based tool, I know all of you have heard the term ‘DUMMY ROUND’, like the Wilson case gage, it depends on who is using it.

“ However, it's always best to measure how YOUR handloads fit in YOUR particular chamber” Back to ‘SPECIFICATIONS’ AND CONFUSION. LARRY WILLIS MAKES A TOOL HE REFERS TO AS BEING A DIGITAL HEAD SPACE GAGE, in all appearance it looks like a comparator, as in measure before and again after then compare the difference, and then? (Along came John) measure again after sizing to determine the effect sizing had on the case length from the shoulder to the head of the case.

Back to 'ASSUMING’ The L.E. Wilson case gage is in specification, it has a datum (measured from), when a case (30/06) is placed into the Wilson case gage the case sits on on a datum/round hole of .375”, again, there is no shoulder in the gage for the shoulder to sit on, there is only the datum/round hole with a radius. The distance from the datum to the head of the case is minimum length when measured to the bottom of the low deck, the distance from the datum to the high deck is is go-gage length.

That leaves the other measurement as in ‘specifications’, from the datum to the mouth of the case (At this point I am beginning to believe no one understands the opening statement). There are case trimmers that are set up to trim off of the shoulder of the case, meaning case length is not part of the specifications and it is assumed a reloader understands there are two length of the chamber, one from the datum/shoulder to the bolt face of the chamber and the other from the datum/shoulder to the mouth of the chamber.

again, I have an Eddystone M1917 that has a long chamber, it has .016” added between the shoulder and bolt face, problem? No, I add .014” to the length of the case between the shoulder and head of the case, ‘And then’ I add .014” to the length of the case for trimming.

What does all of this mean when checking my cases for the Eddystone M1917? The case will protrude from the Wilson case gage .014” above the low deck of the Wilson case gage and .009” above the high deck.

And then? I ask about the case mouth at the opposite end of the gage?

For those with dial calipers, measure the length of the Wilson case gage, THEN!? compare the length of the gage with case length specifications.

F. Guffey

popper
July 13, 2013, 05:35 PM
Measure a fired case from YOUR gun in a case gauge & feeler gauge, case head end. Set your die to push the shoulder back 0.002-4 ( for tolerance). Measure in case gauge again and WRITE the numbers down. Check to see if they need the mouth trimmed. You DON"T want to lock up a 308 AR. You don't want a slam fire. Yes, makers & builders set HS but there are tolerances and who knows if it was a 3 armed monkey that did it. Unless your are makeing a scatch build or have a real problem gun, you don't need the fancy stuff.

MEHavey
July 13, 2013, 07:23 PM
This is the only "headspace" gauge I trust to give me precise information of the exact
case fit to my chamber's actual headspace (i.e., the bolt will just close).
I can then (and forevermore) size to any dimension just short of that -- regardless of
brass type, make, condition, or cartridge.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v663/bwestfall/RELOADING/DSCN0060.jpg
http://www.midwayusa.com/product/479704/hornady-lock-n-load-headspace-gage-5-bushing-set-with-comparator

Walkalong
July 13, 2013, 08:16 PM
I make my own.

Clark
July 13, 2013, 08:52 PM
http://i757.photobucket.com/albums/xx220/ClarkM/Measuringshoulderdatumon308brasswithForsterheadspacegaugeasareference6-11-2013.jpg

Like Walkalong, I made one a month a go, after getting flames about my using brass as a headspace gauge for chambering rifles. I wanted to quantity the error in my process.

hentown
July 14, 2013, 08:33 PM
I by no means claim to be a reloading expert, but to this date I have been just fine by trimming to minimum case length after sizing. My understanding is that a headspace gauge is great if you have reason to believe that your headspace is off, but since headspacing is done by the manufacturer at the time of assembly(hopefully), the only real need for one is if you are barreling your own action and need to specifically know headspace as part of rebarreling.
I am more than likely wrong though.

Yep, your last sentence pretty much sums up your post. ;) You apparently don't have any idea why some of us choose to use case gages. (They're not chamber-prooving gages) I use them for setting up my sizing die, as do most people who use them and understand why they're using them. :evil:

MEHavey
July 14, 2013, 08:45 PM
No.... Rather than "no idea," it was the age-old problem of potAAto vs potaHto definitions.

A chamber headspace gauge is that solid piece of metal that measures internal chamber dimension -- bolt face to shoulder.

A case headspace gauge measures the external dimension of the cartridge case -- bolt face to shoulder again -- and is the
one used by handloaders to ensure precise case fit within any given chamber.

ranger335v
July 14, 2013, 08:48 PM
"Drop-in" gages only tell you if a loaded cartridge should reliably fit any chamber ever made for that cartidge IF the chamber itself is still in specs, but it won't tell you much else. Any of the adjustable "comparitor" type gages from RCBS, Hornady. Sinclair, Innovative Technoligies (or a home-made approximation) will tell you exactly what you're doing with your sizer.

Everyone knows reading anything from Guffy will tell you nothing.

Hondo 60
July 14, 2013, 09:31 PM
G11354 - Ya see, here you went & used the term "Necessary"

That right there just gums up the whole scenario. :neener:

Is it "Necessary" - no.
But if you're lookin for uber accuracy, any step designed to minimize "play" helps.

fguffey
July 15, 2013, 10:36 AM
“No.... Rather than "no idea," it was the age-old problem of potAAto vs potaHto definitions.

A chamber headspace gauge is that solid piece of metal that measures internal chamber dimension -- bolt face to shoulder.

A case headspace gauge measures the external dimension of the cartridge case -- bolt face to shoulder again -- and is the
one used by handloaders to ensure precise case fit within any given chamber”

Mehavey, A head space gage does not measure chamber dimensions, the head space gage is used to measure the length of the chamber from the shoulder/datum to the bolt face. For all but a very few reloaders the head space gage is a fixed gage described by all but a few as go, no-go and field reject.

The case length gage (not a case head space gage) measures the length of a case from the shoulder/datum to the head of the case, and, the case does not have a head space designation, the case has a case length designation.

Then there is that part where some are led to believe the case dimensions are measured with a case length gage, again, a case length gage measures the length of the case from the shoulder/datum to the head of the case if the rleoader understands the difference between drop-in and a datum based tool.

F. Guffey

fguffey
July 15, 2013, 12:00 PM
"Drop-in" gages only tell you if a loaded cartridge should reliably fit any chamber ever made for that cartidge IF the chamber itself is still in specs, but it won't tell you much else. Any of the adjustable "comparitor" type gages from RCBS, Hornady. Sinclair, Innovative Technoligies (or a home-made approximation) will tell you exactly what you're doing with your sizer.

Everyone knows reading anything from Guffy will tell you nothing.
Unread Yesterday, 06:48 PM #34
ranger335v
Member



There are very simple tools a reloader can make, there are simple tools beyond bushings with round holes in them a reloader can use, with all the information available about the Wilson case gage there is no excuse for a reloader to refer to it as a drop-in gage. The instructions that has been included with the L.E. Wilson case gage go back to the day when the pocket rule had a prominent place in the pocket of the skilled trade. The instructions referred to the steel pocket rule as a straight edge, then there is the feeler gage, the feeler gage/straight edge goes back further than the Wilson case gage instructions. For some it is a natural transition, I do not place limits on others, they set their own limits.

F. Guffey

mljdeckard
July 15, 2013, 03:42 PM
I use one for .45, but it's mostly because I have one very finicky .45. For 9mm, I don't use one, I've never had a problem.

JGalt
July 16, 2013, 01:47 PM
I prefer to use the gauge to fine-tune the resizing die setting on my Dillon 550. After setting up my .223 sizing die according to Dillon's DVD instructions, I ended up with die almost touching the shell plate. When checking with case headspace gauge, it was still a scoche high (case shoulder just a hair forward). Due to the forgiving nature of an AR chamber, they worked fine, but I didn't like it. That caused me to do more research - which lead me to a memo on Dillon's site explaining in depth the appropriate way to set sizing die. You can not only contact the shell plate, but you have 1/4 - 1/2 of a turn you can go after contact due to spring allowing some give on the plate. I was then able to get the headspace perfect between the min and max of the gauge.

Innovative
July 16, 2013, 01:59 PM
JGalt .....

Assuming that your chamber is somewhere within specifications and your gauge is correctly made .... you're good to go. Your handloads fit in your gauge.

However, exactly how do they fit in your chamber?

.

ranger335v
July 16, 2013, 07:15 PM
"However, exactly how do they fit in your chamber? "

I can answer that Larry; excessive resizing equals a sloppy fit and unneccessary case stretch when fired! It's better to make ammo that actually fits your chamber than to make ammo that fits your gage!

(But you know that too! ;) )

fguffey
July 17, 2013, 11:32 AM
JGalt, thanks for sharing, notice the first response from WWW.LARRYWILLIS.COM starts out with “Assuming that your chamber is somewhere within specifications and your gauge is correctly made .... you're good to go. Your handloads fit in your gauge”.

Question: Why would anyone with all the talent WWW.LARRYWILLIS.COM claims he has ‘ASSUME’ anything? I do not assume my Wilson case gage is is within specifications, I measure the gage with a standard. I do not assume my dies are within specifications, I measure my dies with a standard. I measure shell holders for ‘in specification’, I measure the deck height, there was a time when reloaders thought all that was required when sizing a case correctly was to match the brand of the die with the brand of shell holder, some still do.

Chambers: I measure chamber lengths in thousandths with or without a conventional head space gage, the advantage goes to the non conventional method, rational: Non conventional methods give a reading in thousandths, conventional offers 3 choices as in go, no-go and beyond.

The Dillon 550B uses a 4 position shell plate, it is possible to have a shell plate that has different deck heights, for most the difference goes unnoticed because of the 1/4, 1/2 etc., additional turn of the die after contact.

Stick with the material you have from Dillon and welcome.

F. Guffey

fguffey
July 17, 2013, 11:54 AM
JGalt,Then there is the “exactly”. If they understood transfers, standards and the art of verifying they could answer their own question, it is possible to correlate the chamber, with the gage with the case.

F. Guffey

fguffey
July 17, 2013, 12:20 PM
then there is the “assuming”, why would WWW.LARRYWILLIS.COMWWW.LARRYWILLIS.COM assume, why would he expect you to assume anything.

http://www.saami.org/PubResources/CC_Drawings/Rifle/223%20Remington.pdf

assuming and specifications when applied to the 223 Remington, SAAMI says there could be .010” difference in the length of the chamber from the shoulder/datum to the bolt face. AND as it applies to the head space gage called ‘go’ we all know the go-gage will go, we all know the no go-gage will go if the chamber is on the long side. With unconventional methods the length of the chamber can be known in thousandths.

F. Guffey

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