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SRQOTW: Are case gauges necessary for rifle reloading?

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by 1KPerDay, Apr 7, 2011.

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  1. 1KPerDay

    1KPerDay Member

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  2. Historian

    Historian Member

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    I have found that a headspace micrometer is a handier tool than a case gauge. It will tell you right away if your resizing die is set up correctly or if you need to adjust it.

    Historian
     
  3. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    No.
    By how it chambers empty, after resizing.

    I set up my sizing die using the rifle chamber for the guage.
    When headspace is just right, you can feel slight resistance at final bolt closing on an empty case.
    If they are right then, they will be right after I load them.

    My only use for a case guage is in .223 for auto-loading rifles.
    I would do the same for other autoloader calibers such as .308 or 30-06, but I don't have any others.

    I want them too all fit in several, or any other .223 rifle, just like factory loads.
    So I case guage every finished round while packing them in boxes.

    rc
     
  4. 1KPerDay

    1KPerDay Member

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    Ah... I primarily shoot autoloading rifles (M1, M1A, AR, Mini-14) so perhaps I should get some... good heavens... this is not a hobby for the poor and cheap like me. :D
     
  5. Otto

    Otto Member

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  6. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    For autos I size to fit a case gauge. For bolt guns and lever guns I size to fit the chamber. For general shooting and hunting ammo I like to bump the shoulder back (Using a FL sizer) .001 to .003. There will be some variation due to differences in brass. (Some will spring back more than others)

    I bet 99% of the time if we screw the sizer down to just touch the shell holder, we will be just fine safety wise. (Kudos to the reloading companies), but we have much more control and peace of mind if we measure things. We can often times increase accuracy potential and lengthen brass life.
     
  7. 243winxb

    243winxb Member

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    Like Walkalong said, the die and shell holder will set the proper headspace length that will work safely. Shell plates, for me is a different story. Always use something to measure shoulder bump on sizing for bottle neck cartridges.
     
  8. jmorris

    jmorris Member

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    They are not but they make life much more simple and you know your ammo will run in anything.
     
  9. evan price

    evan price Member

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    Depends on where you get your brass and what sort of gun you have.
    If you buy factory ammo, shoot it in one gun, and then reload that brass for that gun, odds are you won't have trouble.

    If you shoot semiautos, especially military style guns, there's more use for it because one out-of-spec case can jam.

    If you use range brass, or have several guns in the caliber, it is even more necessary. What chambers in one might not chamber in another. And even running the dies to maximum resize (touching the shellplate) can possibly miss things- let's say you don't quite pull the press handle hard enough a couple times doing a batch of 308 for example- and slipping each one into a case guage takes little time.

    I've had stuff that looked fine and was reloaded with ammo that DID work and had a couple that couldn't chamber in my FAL. Case guage quickly showed me what was wrong with the cases.

    They run between $15-$25 per caliber. They last darn near forever if properly handled and stored. IMHO for my type of loading they are worth the expense.

    A case guage will tell you headspace and trim length with one look. Grreat for spotting warped rims, too.
     
  10. Kevin Rohrer

    Kevin Rohrer Member

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    i use a Hornady headspace gage in conjunction with a set of vernier calipers to get the headspace correct.

    I use a Wilson case gage to check the headspace and trim length. It's faster to use in the latter measurement than the headspace gage.
     
  11. ranger335v

    ranger335v Member

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    "Are case gauges necessary for rifle reloading?"

    Well, I've been doing this for over 45 years and don't have or even want one. I doubt if more than 5-10% of reloaders have one and would bet that less than half of them use it for very long.

    I do have and use a dial caliper and the Horndy case and seating tools for it but even those are by no means "necessary", they weren't even available very long ago.
     
  12. gamestalker

    gamestalker member

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    10-4 to that rcmodel! My chamber is my tool. I like mine nice and tight, it also gives me a longer life span for my brass.
     
  13. 1KPerDay

    1KPerDay Member

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    So, ranger... how would you go about testing without the gauges? Would you run the die down to the ram, size a case, and then chamber it in a bolt action and see if there's resistance? And then just turn the die a touch more until you get it where you want?

    I don't suppose this would work with semi-autos anyway.

    Historian, are you referring to the Hornady Lock-n-load type of headspace/case gauge measuring tool?

    Is there any disadvantage to using that kind of tool over the cylinder type?

    I'm weighing the options of buying 3 or 4 dillon/wilson/lyman cylinder type gauges for the rifle calibers I plan to reload, or buying the hornady type that comes with bushings for all the popular shouldered rifle cartridges.

    Thanks for the info.
     
  14. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    That's how generations of reloaders did it with their bolt guns. And it will work in bolt guns most of the time. Bolt guns have massive cocking cams and leverage. You read of partial neck sizing, neck sizing. Guys just crunch fitting cases to the chamber.

    Absolutely will not work, at least not 100%. Sloppy bolt gun reloading techniques will cause jams, failures to extract, even slamfires in M1'a and M1a's. For a gas gun the case has to be smaller than the chamber. If the case is too long, or too fat, these mechanisms just don’t have the energy to size cases. Well they will size them a little bit, but eventually tolerance stackup will happen and then the reloader has problems.
     
  15. HJ857

    HJ857 Member

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    The Hornady headspace gauge is great for setting up your sizing die/determining how much you're setting the shoulders back, but it doesn't do anything to check the integrity of the casing at the base or rim. So a sized case may have the correct headspace, but be messed up at the base to the point that it causes a failure upon chambering. This is where a cylinder type, or chamber gauge, is really useful, and where the Hornady is of no use at all.

    I use both and wouldn't be without either.
     
  16. 1KPerDay

    1KPerDay Member

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    Thank you.
     
  17. 918v

    918v Member

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    By how the bolt feels when it closes on a loaded round. You want to set up the headspace so there is minimal airspace around the cartrige. Case gauges are made my several manufacturers and each is slightly different inside. So are rifle chambers from brand to brand and even within the same brand. A case gauge does not represent your chamber.
     
  18. Innovative

    Innovative Member

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    Each chamber is different

    918v ......

    +1
    ___________________________

    Check into the Digital Headspace Gauge. It's easy to use, repeatable, very accurate, no bushings or adapters required, and it works on ALL different rifle calibers.

    It can also measure the bullet jump to your rifling.
     
  19. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    If you want to control the amount you bump back the shoulder for use in one bolt or lever rifle, use a fancy gauge like Inovative and others make, or one of the inexpensive ways to measure shoulder setback, but if you want to load for auto's, use a case gauge.
     
  20. 243winxb

    243winxb Member

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    Good Info, very true-
     
  21. 1KPerDay

    1KPerDay Member

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    Well I got some wilson gauges and my cases/rounds enter fine. They are juuuust flush or maybe a tad below the minimum/lower shelf... think they'll be okay? I set the sizing die according to the Lee directions but I guess it was a touch too much shoulder setback.

    I don't really feel like tossing 200+ .30-06 cases and 100 loaded rounds... :uhoh:
     
  22. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    They will be OK, assuming they are not BTW hot loads, and are just a teenie, tiny, hair under, but next time set up the sizer with the gauge.

    My sized .223 cases will be just flush with the top edge at most, and none under flush with the bottom edge.

    I have not set up my .06 sizer yet, although I got a Wilson gauge recently because I also recently traded for a Garand, but have not loaded for it yet. The little bit of .30-6 loading I have done was just size em and load em for a bolt gun.
     
  23. 1KPerDay

    1KPerDay Member

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    They are just a teeny tiny hair under, just so you can barely feel it with your finger. And they are "starting" loads... 46 grains of H4895 under a 150 grain pill, stepping up in .2 grain increments to 47. And a few at 47.2 and 47.4 if all goes well with the others.
     
  24. evan price

    evan price Member

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    You'll be fine with them. Now you know next time to not size that extra c***-hair.
     
  25. ranger335v

    ranger335v Member

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    "So, ranger... how would you go about testing without the gauges? Would you run the die down to the ram, size a case, and then chamber it in a bolt action and see if there's resistance? And then just turn the die a touch more until you get it where you want?"

    Yes. When I started reloading our chamber was the only gage we had and it still works quite well, especially if we know what the he77 we're doing! Fact is, a lot more cases seem to get excessive shoulder set back than don't get enough. We quickly learned that 1/16th turn of a die moves the shoulders up or down about 4.5 thou and that's fully half of the normal headspace tolerance of a bottle neck cartridge so we have to do it carefully. Those who suggest making "small die changes of a quarter-turn" (being 18 thou, about twice the normal full headspace tolerance range) when adjusting a sizer simply don't have a clue of what they are talking about.


    "I don't suppose this would work with semi-autos anyway."

    Sure it will, if done correctly. We were also reloading for auto loaders long before anyone I knew of had any type of case gage device. Just place a resized case in the chamber, release the bolt but don't let it drop until it's maybe half way, or more, home. If it can lock closed on the seated case and then pull/remove the case smoothly, you have it sized enough. If it hangs up going in or out something is still too big.
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2011
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