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Are Headspace Gauges Necessary?

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by G11354, Jul 10, 2013.

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  1. G11354

    G11354 Member

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    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.
     
  2. Shmackey

    Shmackey Member

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    Are you referring to one of these?

    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.... :)
     
  3. G11354

    G11354 Member

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    Yes, that is the item I am referring to.
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2013
  4. jmorris

    jmorris Member

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    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%.
     
  5. GLOOB

    GLOOB Member

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    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.
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2013
  6. silicosys4

    silicosys4 Member

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    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.
     
  7. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    Very nice to have, not an absolute necessity.
     
  8. Lennyjoe

    Lennyjoe Member

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    ^^^^^^^^ what he said.....;)
     
  9. GLOOB

    GLOOB Member

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    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.
     
  10. thump_rrr

    thump_rrr Member

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    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.
     
  11. rayatphonix

    rayatphonix Member

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    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.
     
  12. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    Sure do. :)
     
  13. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    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
     
  14. cfullgraf

    cfullgraf Member

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    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).
     
  15. gamestalker

    gamestalker member

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    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
     
  16. Mohave-Tec

    Mohave-Tec Member

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    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.
     
  17. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    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
     
  18. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    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.
     
  19. Clark

    Clark Member

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    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?
     
  20. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    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.
     
  21. jmorris

    jmorris Member

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    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.
     
  22. HJ857

    HJ857 Member

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    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.
     
  23. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    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.
     
  24. HOOfan_1

    HOOfan_1 Member

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    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.
     
  25. 243winxb

    243winxb Member

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    LE Wilson Preferred Method:

    http://www.lewilson.com/images/CASE_GAGE.pdf
    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
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2013
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