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Reloading for the AR-15 SB vs Full Length

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by Cougfan2, Jul 15, 2009.

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  1. Cougfan2

    Cougfan2 Member

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    I have been a shotshell reloader for years and reloaded metallic years ago with my Brother, but haven't done it for a long time. I just accquired a RRA A4 Varmint upper with 24" Bull barrel and have decided shooting the typical range ammo I use in my other AR's in this upper would be like drinking Sterno out of Waterford Crystal. Therefore, I have decided to get back into metallic reloading.

    Question: Years ago I had heard that if you were loading for any semi-auto, particularly AR's, you should use Small Base dies to avoid extraction problems. Is this true, or will standard Full Length dies work OK? BTW the RRA upper I just bought has a Wylde chamber that is supposed to be throated a little longer than a std .223 Rem Chamber and just a little shorter than a true 5.56 chamber. Supposedly aids extraction as one advantage.

    Thanks folks! :)
     
  2. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    Small base dies are certainly not needed for AR's with 5.56 NATO chambers.
    I have used nothing but the same standard RCBS dies since I got my first Colt AR & Mini-14's in the early 1970's.

    The Wilde chamber is supposed to be a little tighter then a 5.56 NATO chamber, but I doubt you would need small base dies for it either.

    Never having had a Wilde chambered AR, I can't say for 100% sure though.

    rc
     
  3. loadedround

    loadedround Member

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    If by chance you acquire military 5.56 brass shot full auto in a sloppy chamber, you possibly may need a SB die to bring it back into spec. However, I have found this to be more prevalent in 308 brass shot full auto. I have been loading Lake City NM brass for my Colt H-Bar and have yet needed a SB die. :)
     
  4. 243winxb

    243winxb Member

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    RCBS website- Small Base dies for Auto.
     
  5. Cougfan2

    Cougfan2 Member

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    243winxb I am aware that RCBS makes SB dies. I also read the explanation on the Lee web site at the link you provided (Thanks) that indicated that their FL dies will work fine for semi-autos. My primary questions was and is are SB dies necessary when loading for a semi-auto to achieve reliable extraction. The Lee site seems to say no, at least as far as their dies are concerned. They indicated that use of SB dies may result in unnecessary wear and reduced case life.

    There seems to be some disagreement on whether SB dies are necessary.
     
  6. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    It has been my life-long experience that SB dies are never needed, except in a few isolated instances.

    1. 7.62 GI brass shot in a sloppy machinegun chamber.
    2. Other calibers shot in certain semi-auto and lever-action rifles such as the Browning BAR, BLR, Savage 99, and others with tighter then standard chambers and little camming power.

    AR-15's do not normally fit the "tighter then normal chambers" description. And as I noted, I have been reloading GI 5.56 brass since the 1970's with standard RCBS dies, with nary a problem.

    rc
     
  7. Cougfan2

    Cougfan2 Member

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    Thanks guys. Now for my next project; figuring what kind of loader and acessories I want to start out with. Debating starting with a single stage or just going with something like a Dillon out of the gate.

    I know the progressives are great for cranking out a lot of rounds after you get a load figured out, but what about while you are working up a load? Is it significantly harder to change settings around with a progressive than it is with a single stage?
     
  8. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    I'd always suggest a single-stage press for any beginning reloader.

    1. There are plenty of things to learn to make good rifle ammo without having to learn all about a progressive press at the same time.

    2. If you load GI .223 brass at all, you will have to re-size & de-prime it one at a time anyway so you can deal with the primer crimp.

    3. A single-stage press is always something you will need on a reloading bench anyway, for a multitude of things you can't even do on a progressive.

    rc
     
  9. atblis

    atblis Member

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    Go with the Dillon "straight out of the gate". The trick is to treat it like a single stage at first. Pace yourself. Only do one operation at a time so you can focus on that and make sure everying is working like it should. As you start to figure it out, add more simultaneous operations as you go.

    Plain dies are fine. They'll make ammo that is better than the vast majority of factory.
     
  10. Cougfan2

    Cougfan2 Member

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    RC That's kind of what I was thinking. Even if I end up with a progressive, I might still want a single stage. I would think it might make sense to work a load up using a single stage and once you got what you wanted, set up the progressive for the same load to crank a bunch of them out.
     
  11. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    I really like looking at all my powder charges standing in a loading block before I seat the bullets too!

    But that's just me.

    Never had a squib load, or any other problem in the 47 years I have reloaded, and I don't need none now either just to gain a little speed.

    rc
     
  12. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    I am not certain that the people who say small base dies are not needed, ever use gages.

    I use gages. I have had Compass Lake create a .223 reamer cut head space gage, using the same chambering reamer that cut my space gun chamber.

    I have had them made in 308. Picture below. As you can see, two cases, fired in some zepplein sized chamber, one drops in the Wilson gage, the other does not in a reamer cut gage.
    OncefiredWRA68unsizedincasegages.gif

    This is not a knock against Wilson gages. These are cut large between the shoulder and the base so you can drop in fired cases and determine, within error, the headspace of the rifle that the case was fired.

    After sizing one of these cases in a standard die, that case would not drop all the way into the reamer cut gage.
    WRAsizedinLeedie.gif

    But the one sized in the small base die did
    WRAresizedinRCBSSmallbasedie.gif

    Unlike a M1 or M1a, a slamfire in a AR is extremely rare, and I have not heard of one occuring while feeding from the magazine. So having an fat round in an AR is unlikely to cause an out of battery issue. Still, you will find threads where people have had function problems due to brass that was oversize for their chambers.

    Still the vast majority of people use standard dies and don't experience function problems. That does not mean that their rifle bolt is not crush fitting their ammo to fit the chamber.

    I do not understand the almost visceral reaction against small base dies. They size the case head .002” more than a standard, but they will push the shoulder back too much if you don’t use a gage to set them up. If you set up the die with a cartridge headspace gage, use a decent lubricant (like RCBS water soluble or Imperial sizing wax), your ammunition is now highly interchangeable between firearms of a similar caliber. And you are unlikely to experience chambering problems.

    If you search for enough posts, you will find that threads where the cure to someone's function problem was a small base die.
     
  13. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    What's that got to do with a 5.56 NATO or Wilde chambered AR-15?

    I fail to see any connection at all to your custom cut match chambered space-gun and the one the OP was asking about on his AR-15.

    You probably do have a need for a SM Base die, but that doesn't mean everyone with an AR-15 does too.

    rc
     
  14. Tim the student

    Tim the student Member

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    I also have an RRA Varmint (but I have the EOP) and I use regular full size dies. Haven't had any problems.
     
  15. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    Well my ammo, small based sized to either gage minimum in my old .223 Wilson gages, or my newer Compass Lake Gage, fits my two RRA NM AR 15's quite well. And my Compass Lake barrel, and my Armalite's, and NM Bushmasters.

    I forget what Frank uses for a reamer. http://www.compasslake.com/ It could be a Wylde Chamber. http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=52286 Could be a modified Wylde as Frank sets the chamber so a 80 grain load is touching the lands when the round is 2.550". Anyway, a Wylde chamber is used by a lot of folks, including RRA.

    But the important thing for me, is that I use gages. A lot better than guesses. And all my rifles function with the same ammunition without any sizing related problems.

    Others may have different results.
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2009
  16. Canuck-IL

    Canuck-IL Member

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    SB do solve problems for SOME chambers using SOME previously fired cases. I've got 2 Wylde chambered ARs (RRA and WOA) and regular FL dies have never given me an extraction issue.
    /Bryan
     
  17. loadedround

    loadedround Member

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    Go with a new or used Dillon 550B. You will never look back! :)
     
  18. Cougfan2

    Cougfan2 Member

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    Thanks to all. Some good advice. This is what I love about THR! :)
     
  19. jmorris

    jmorris Member

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    I've loaded .223 shot out of many different M16's and ar's and I've never owned a small base die.
     
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