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A Case For Checking Internally For Incipient Case Head Separation?

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by otisrush, Dec 12, 2018.

  1. otisrush

    otisrush Member

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    I believe I had an "A ha!" moment today. It was also a moment that confirms (I think) why we do what we do with regards to being thoughtful and careful.

    I load .223 only for plinking out of my AR. 99% of the time I'm loading 55gr FMJs. Normally I've been using brass that I *know* is once fired (or low firings) because it came from me or it came from my buds (who don't reload). I've set up my die to only bump the shoulder back a little - so I know cases coming out of my gun aren't getting stretched a whole lot when they're sized. And I don't shoot hot loads. So I haven't (rightly or wrongly) been too too concerned about incipient case head separation. I'd look for signs on the outside.....and occasionally scrape around on the inside.

    Over the last year I've picked up a BUNCH of brass that I have no knowledge of its history. So more recently in my case prep I'm been very studious about checking the inside of every case with a pick to see if I can feel any brass anomalies. I can't say how many cases I've checked this way. I've never rejected a case......until today.

    The internal scraping process had produced no "positives" - and I was really wondering about its value. But today, on one case, I noticed the pick was encountering a good amount of unevenness down by the web. I thought "You know....this very well could be what it feels like. It's not worth risking it. This is getting tossed." Then I thought "If I understand this all correctly (case head separation and how and why it happens) there's a good chance this case will be quite long. I measured it: 1.786". I think this is the longest .223 case I've ever had. (For those that don't load .223 - this measurement is .026" longer than the *max case length*!)

    I then thought it would be fun to cut open the case and see if I could confirm wall thinning. I have to say I don't think I can actually see it. You can see in the photo the areas that were causing the pick to scrape and get caught up.

    The bottom line: I'm now a firm believer in checking the internals of the case for brass anomalies.
    Case.jpg
     
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  2. WestKentucky

    WestKentucky Member

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    Look on the outside of the case if you didn’t mangle it when you cut it. You can often SEE incipient separation in the form of a really odd shiny line. I have never kicked out a case for incipient separation, neck tension gets mine first. I load light, as well.
     
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  3. FROGO207

    FROGO207 Member

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    Yep the perils of unknown range brass rears it's ugly head. The procedure has merit and I will find a handfull of bad brass every month. Much easier to find it when inspecting brass than to have it come apart in your rifle for sure.
     
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  4. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    That one looks fine, barely starting to get a rut. Case stretching there doesn't necessarily mean a longer case overall, brass flowing from the shoulder area makes them long for the most part.

    Cutting open cases you suspect is a great way to learn what they look like vs how they feel.

    I use a feeler to check all range brass before doing anything to it. Once we get a good case, we can eliminate case head separations from happening by careful measuring/sizing, but range brass is always suspect. I still check my "good" fired by me brass before loading it again, just because.

    Rut in Kent's .308 Case #2 Pic 4.JPG
     

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  5. jmorris

    jmorris Member

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    I cut into a few and found that I ruined a case for no reason.

    I made a little post for one of my runout fixtures that allows me to measure case wall thickness without destroying the case.
    2524E9D8-3570-40EA-A400-FFE59AF505F1.jpeg
    C88AEC73-9F8B-44C0-838A-ED07A6188E15.jpeg
     
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  6. otisrush

    otisrush Member

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    Your picture, along with *actually seeing* the inside of the case that I'd run my pick into (and then had concerns with) was very very interesting to me.

    A question re when you find a case that you think is failing: Via the pick does it feel like a ridge/ledge (i.e. the resistance is pretty definitive and dramatic, and then ultimately with more tension the pick then breaks free) or does the brass simply not feel smooth? I have cases where I can tell the inside surface is smooth....quite smooth actually. On the case that I thought was bad (but as you said most probably wasn't) I would say the brass felt rough not in a small area - but rather over a bit of the brass surface.

    Thx!
     
  7. Rule3

    Rule3 Member

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    Maybe it is just the picture but to me it looks more like a split begining (it is going lengthwise) not around the web? Or is that just your digging on it??
     
  8. otisrush

    otisrush Member

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    I think that is more me digging than a developing split. After I opened the case up I inserted the pick and scraped around like I did when I was initially checking it so I could *watch* what it was hitting and associate it with what I was feeling via the pick. So the resulting scratches are much more than what would have come from what I did that caused me to discard the case and tear it apart.

    Based on the responses so far I acknowledge I might have jumped the gun a bit in deciding that the case was at risk. But feeling that anomaly and seeing what actually was inside has been very interesting.....well worth sacrificing a .223 case for the learning experience. ROFL
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2018
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  9. WelshShooter

    WelshShooter Member

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    Be careful with using such a sharp pick! You don't want to cause case head separation further down the line due to scraping the living daylights out of your case prior to ever sizing!
     
  10. rskent

    rskent Member

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    I hope you don’t mind if I shamelessly copy your setup.
     
  11. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    Somewhere in between. It just takes opening up a few cases to see what you were feeling. You may have been feeling the spot where the thicker web changed to the thinner case wall (The angle changes). I can feel that sometimes and at first it felt like a possible rut until I cut open a couple.

    But if in doubt, cut it open and look, what's a few sacrificial cases compared to knowledge gained?

    Rut started but still OK. You can see the dip, both in the case wall and across the body.
    Rut in .223 case Pic 3.JPG

    Rut so bad it has cracked around part of the case. You can see the rut in
    the case wall on the left and the crack through the case wall on the right.
    Rut in Kent's .308 Case #2 Pic 3.JPG
     
  12. MutinousDoug

    MutinousDoug Member

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    I use a paper clip to inspect cases after I resize them every time I shoot them but I polish a radius equal to 1/2 the diameter of the wire with an oil stone to the inspecting end so as not to scratch the case. I buy once fired GI brass and segregate them by head stamp and head stamp date; mainly Lake City. I shoot them in competition (NRA High Power) for 5-6 reloads (one season) and then relegate them to practice loads until they are rejected for head separation via inspection or retired when a new batch of competition is retired; usually another 5-8 reloads. Very occasionally I'll see a longitudinal split or a case mouth split in my practice brass but be aware, I've seen incipient case head separation evidence after the 1st reloading of "once fired" brass.
     
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  13. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    I have seen it in brand new ammo fired once. Fellow had some sort of AKish type rifle that must have had a headspace issue. Fresh factory ammo coming out with a bright ring all the way around. Ugly.

    I too check cases every time.
     
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  14. Dudedog
    • Contributing Member

    Dudedog Contributing Member

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    I am still wondering when the jmorris Museum of clever reloading devices opens!:)
    I'm sure I could spend a while in it!
     
  15. Toprudder

    Toprudder Member

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    I'd pay a $ to see that!
     
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  16. Rule3

    Rule3 Member

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    If you cut up all your brass, then you will never have a remote chance of case separation.;)
     
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  17. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    Tis true, tis true. :)
     
  18. Toprudder

    Toprudder Member

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    Actually, that would be a case (pun intended) of complete and permanent case separation.

    I just realized this thread was about separation anxiety. (ba dum dum). :)
     
  19. jmorris

    jmorris Member

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    All it takes is a case of beer and gas money ;)
     
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  20. Rule3

    Rule3 Member

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    Some time ago I posted a picture of a a round that had case separation in a AR I was shooting.
    This was on ONCE fired LC brass, so it can happen anytime,
    Much discussion. There is a thread here somewhere
    Not saying it is something you want to happen, but nothing really serious occurred (at least in my situation). The AR failed to cycle and load a new round, The case head was extracted and was left with the body of the case stuck in the chamber (kinda a squib with a brass) A long welding rod (cleaning rod) push the broken case out. No damage or Kaboom.
     
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