Reloading .223 Remington - Tutorial Part 3 - Primer Pocket Prep and Trimming
Last Updated :: 3/18/2012 10:59:22 AM

Reloading .223 Remington - Tutorial Part 3 - Primer Pocket Prep and Trimming

by AssaultRifler
December 2007, updated 2-11-2012

This is the way I reload 223 using my tools. The tools will vary, but the overall process is the same.. Throughout the tutorial I'll mention other tools and alternative methods of accomplishing the same task whenever possible. The goal of this tutorial is to demonstrate the process more so than specific tools.

Here's a quick overview of the reloading methodology I use:
  1. sort and inspect cases
  2. tumble dirty cases
  3. lube cases
  4. size and decap cases
  5. delube the sized cases
  6. poke out media from primer pocket
  7. clean primer pocket (optional)
  8. decrimp primer pockets (if needed)
  9. trim and debur the trimmed cases (if needed)
  10. seat primer
  11. drop powder
  12. seat the bullet
  13. crimp the case (optional)
This is Part 3 of this tutorial covering steps 6 through 9.

After you sorted your brass, removing any defective cases, lubed, then sized them, then removed the lube by tumbling, the next phase of reloading is to deal with the primer pockets.

You'll find that if you tumble brass that's been deprimed, inevitably some tumbling media will be stuck in some of the primer pockets. The media needs to be removed before finishing the rounds.

Also, if you're reloading once fired military brass, it's a certainty that the primer pocket has been crimped. The primer pocket has to be decrimped in order to seat a new primer.

The only good thing about decrimping primer pockets is it has to be done only once during the life of the case.

Since you're dealing with primer pockets, you might elect to perform the optional step of cleaning them. It's not a mandatory step every time you reload cases, but it's a good thing to do in my opinion.

To complete case preparation, you must make certain the brass is not over the max OAL of the case, which is 1.760", if it is then you must trim it.

Step 6 - Removing tumbling media from the primer pocket

This step is required if you've elected to tumble the lube off your sized cases.

You can avoid having to remove media from tha primer pocket though, and that's to not tumble your cases to remove lube until you've actually finished reloading them.

That works for some lubes, such as the Dillon Case Lubricant, but it's best to remove the other lubes such as the RCBS lube because it's more "sticky" than the Dillon lube.

Another way to remove media from the primer pocket is if you have a progressive reloader, use a universal decapping die in the station where the sizing die would normally go.

I just remove the media in the primer pocket by hand since I usually clean the primer pocket at the same time. Regardless, if you find yourself with cases that have tumbling media in their primer pockets you need to remove the media

Since we're dealing with primer pockets I'll combine this step with Step 7 below.

Step 7 - Cleaning the primer pocket (optional)

Start with your tumbled, sized, delubed brass from the Reloading Tutorial Parts 1 and 2:

Gather your tools. Tools required are simple:
  1. Primer pocket cleaner
  2. Paper clip or other type of poker
  3. tray to catch the debris
Specifically I use the Hornady primer pocket cleaner head, I mated it to a RCBS tool handle, a paper clip, and make use of the trimmer portion of my Lee case trimmer. I use my ever versatile white plastic meat tray as well

Set up shop. I put the brass that needs to be prepped on my left side, the white tray and tools in the middle, and box to store completed rounds on my right. As you can tell, this is one of those tasks you can do while watching tv.

The methodology is simple:
  • pick up a case
  • clean the primer pocket with the primer cleaning pocket tool
  • hold up the case to see if there's daylight shining through the primer pocket
  • if not, that means there's a piece of tumbling media in the primer pocket
  • if so, then poke it out
The Lee trimmer cutter works great as a poker since it automatically centers on the flash hole

Here's all the crud from cleaning and removing media from the primer pockets:

Since I'm handling and inspecting the cases, I spend the extra second or two and give the case one last visual inspection. The first inspection was in Reloading Tutorial Part 1 - Sorting and Tumbling, the second inspection was in Reloading Tutorial Part 2 - Lubing and Sizing. But as they say, the third time's the charm. I happened to catch one more defective case during this step:

Step 8 - Decrimping the primer pocket (if needed)

As mentioned above, if you're reloading once fired military brass, chances are the primer pockets have been crimped. You must remove this crimp in order to be able to seat a new primer.

There are 2 categories of tools you can use to remove the primer pocket crimp on a .223 case: reamers and swagers. I use the swaging method first, and then use a hand reamer to touch up the primer pocket in case swaging doesn't completely remove the primer pocket crimp.

Specifically my tools are:
  • Hornady Primer Pocket Reamer
  • RCBS Primer Pocket Swaging Combo (just the swager head)
  • Dillon Super Swage 600
Here's the Hornady reamer and RCBS swager:

Pictures of the Dillon swager are below. I mounted the Dillon swager to a piece of wood so it'll be portable. Note that when you mount the Dillon swager, you have to mount so that the handle will be able to move lower than the mounting surface.

First step is to determine whether your brass has a crimped primer pocket or not. The hard way to find out is to seat a primer and see if it fits. If it doesn't you've just wasted a primer.

Another approach is to just go ahead and swage the primer pocket, if it needed swaging then the crimp will be removed. If not, you've just wasted your time.

The only method I've found that's 100% to see if a primer pocket needs to be swaged is to use the small swager bit from the RCBS Primer Pocket Swaging Combo as a primer pocket gage.

If the primer pocket isn't crimped, the bit will fit all the way in:

If the primer pocket is crimped, the bit won't fit all the way in:

Once you've determined a piece of brass needs to be swaged, you can swage it with the Dillon swager.

Simply put the brass on the spindle:

Move the brass and spindle into position,
Do the actual swaging:

Raise the spindle again and remove the just swaged brass:

At this point I might check the primer pocket with the RCBS swager bit. If it's still a bit tight, I'll touch up the primer pocket with the Hornady reamer and recheck it.

Step 9 - Case Trimming (if needed)

The next step is case trimming. You can actually do this step before the others, but it has to be done if necessary. The max length of your sized .223 brass can be no bigger than 1.760". The recommended trim to length is 1.75". Although no one prints a minimum OAL for a .223 case, you're OK if you're in the 1.740" to 1.750" range.

The instructions for the RCBS X-Die for example, states to trim to 0.02" below the max OAL of your case, so 1.760" - 0.02" is 1.740".

There's a variety of trimmers you can use to trim brass:
  • rotary lathe types from RCBS and Wilson for example
  • Lee trimmer
  • Possum Hollow trimmer
  • Dillon powered trimmer
  • Gracey trimmer
  • Giraud Tool Company trimmer

All but the last trimmer, requires using a deburring tool to debur the inner and outer case mouth of the just trimmed case. The Giraud trimmer does that automatically. I never owned one, but owners of the Dillon trimmer say it trims so neatly that they don't need to debur their trimmed cases as well.

When it comes to trimming, the more you spend usually means the less work you have to do.

I started with the RCBS Rotary case trimmer, moved on to the Lee trimmer (see Trimming with the Dillon Case Gage and the Lee Trimmer V 2.0), then finally decided to spend the money to buy the Giraud trimmer. It's money well spent.

Since I'm demonstrating how I reload .223 using my tools, here's my process:

I set up the sized, primer pocket prepped brass to my left, the Giraud trimmer in the middle, a bucket to store the trimmed brass on the '][/img]

Power up the Giraud:

Trim a case:

Here are some examples of brass trimmed with the Giraud trimmer:

The Giraud trimmer is so fast you'll be done in no time!

Now you're ready to start Reloading Tutorial Part 4 - Priming, Dropping Powder, Seating Bullets.