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How to tell once fired from twice/three/four times fired?

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by Exibar, Oct 6, 2012.

  1. Exibar

    Exibar Active Member

    HI All!
    I've been a lurker here for a while now, and there sure are a ton of talented folks here!
    I have a question about telling apart a once fired case from a multiple times fired case. Specifically for .223 cases... I've always looked at the cases and if they have that two tone colored brass near the bottle neck, I've always figured them to be once fired. Is this a good judgement of once or many time fired case?

    I've attache some pics of some brass I just picked up, I think it's mostly once fired as it's all in great shape and has that two tone to it....

    any thoughts or comments would be extremely helpful :)

    thanks all!
    Mike B

    Attached Files:

  2. Shmackey

    Shmackey Well-Known Member

    The discoloration from annealing doesn't mean anything; those cases could have been loaded four times and just not tumbled.

    Pretty much the only way to know for sure is to get military brass with the primer crimp still present. That being said, I'd probably prefer twice-fired Lapua brass to once-fired mil brass, so it's not all cut and dried.
  3. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    GI brass is not polished after annealing, so the two-tone color may be an indication the brass is once-fired.
    However, there is nothing to say the guy who reloaded it again polished it either.

    Most commercial brass is polished after loading and will not be two-tone to start with.
    And most commercial brass will not have crimped primers.

    GI brass will have a crimped primer pocket, so if it is still there, it has not been reloaded.

    If it has been reamed or swaged out, it has been.

    The only other method I know of is to look very carefully for extractor and ejector marks on the case head.

    Sometimes, you can tell from that if you find more then one set of tracks on it.

  4. Fired

    Fired Member

    That 2 tone look you're talking bout only means it has been annealed. So it could've been fired x5 if anything.
  5. rg1

    rg1 Well-Known Member

    Number one clue for military brass is whether the primer is crimped in. Crimped primer=once fired. Another is whether the primer color-plating matches the original primer, nickel plated versus brass cups. IF the case shows the horseshoe shaped ejector hole mark on the case head, then more than one little horseshoe marks means multi-fired. On the inside of the case rim especially with semi-autos or full auto's the extractor when yanking the case from the chamber will leave a mark the width of the extractor. More than one extractor marks shows multi-fired. Often the mouth of the case can show if the case has been trimmed by a perfectly square and sharp mouth and the case length can sometimes clue you to once fired or not. You can't always tell if the "two-toned" color of the case shows once fired or not. Military type manufacturing leaves the annealing color on the brass while commercial cases most often are polished and you can't even see the annealing color. Plus if you don't polish and only clean the fired cases in your tumbler it doesn't polish out the annealing. Fired cases from bolt actions show less evidence of firings than does semi-auto rifles. Main thing is to always check the inside of the case for any stretch marks or cracks on any case whether it's once fired or not. One method is using the bent wire feeler method and you can shine a light into cases and see the classic stretch mark.
  6. Centurian22

    Centurian22 Well-Known Member

    First welcome! There are certainly many very experienced people here and I have learned alot since joining. I'm sure someone (like RC) much more experienced will be along soon to give a more difinitive answer but here's my $0.02: I don't think there is any easy or sure way to know how many times brass has been fired. You can (and probably more importantly should) look for signs of wear moreso than caring how many times its been fired (though I'f possible by source that is nice to know). Signs such as split necks, loose primer holes (when de-priming / seating new primers) though this will also vary between brands of brass, using a dental pick or sharpened paper clip you can scrape the inside of the case from head to mouth feeling for a ridge or indication of potential case head separation.

    Hope this helps. Good luck and stay safe.
  7. Centurian22

    Centurian22 Well-Known Member

    Wow took me so long to type I was already beaten to it lol.
  8. Exibar

    Exibar Active Member

    WOW, super fast replies guys! I knew this was a place with a great bunch of folks ;-)

    Ok, so fa it seems that one of the best ways to tell is either if the primer is still crimped in, or if there is only one ejector mark. Totally understand the principal behind this now ;-) Have to investigate, and follow the data... this I'm good at :)

    Here are a couple pictures. a lot of the brass was still primed, and appears to be factory. most of the brass appears to be Lake City and nato cross with some other military headstamps mixed in as well... all with crimp.... that circle indent around the primer.
    Please take a peek at the pictures. I believe that the mark on the rim is the ejector pull mark, there is only one on the sampling I looked at. I put two jewler's loops in front of my camera lens and it seems like it worked out pretty well :)

    some of the brass has already been decapped and sized too...

    Th brass looks very good, only a few with minor dents that would come out during resizing...

    thank you very much for the help guys and thank you for the welcome too! ;-)

    Mike B

    Attached Files:

  9. 45lcshooter

    45lcshooter Well-Known Member

    These guys are right. I had the same question too. After reading the responses it was like "oooooo yeah that makes sense". Thank guys. And thank you for poseing the question.
  10. SSN Vet

    SSN Vet Well-Known Member

    If the brass was fired in an autoloader it "may" have little dents on the side of the case mouth from ejection. (Kolashnakov based rifles are an example of this).

    So you may be able to get an idea that the brass has been loaded multiple times if it has several similar dents in the side of the case.

    Loose primer pockets is an indication that the brass is near the end of it's serviceable life.
  11. dickttx

    dickttx Well-Known Member

    The indentation around the primer is probably going to still be there even after removing the crimp.
  12. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

    Check all range brass on the inside for signs of impending case head separation. Even once fired brass can have a groove if the headspace is bad. I have witnessed brand new factory .223 ammo almost separate just above the head after one firing. The brass had a split about 2/3's of the way around.

    They were not quite as bad as this pic 243winxb posted here before.


    You can use a variety of tools to check for the internal rut that comes before the separation.


    Attached Files:

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