Last Updated :: 3/18/2012 9:48:57 AM EST
Reloading .223 Remington -Tutorial Part 4 - Priming, Dropping Powder, & Seating Bullets
December 2007 updated 2/18/2012
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:
This is Part 4 of the tutorial, covering steps 10 through 13.
At this point you'll get to see all the work you put into prepping the brass from Reloading Tutorial Parts 1 through 3 pay off.
Your brass should be clean, sized, trimmed, and any primer pocket crimps removed.
Your brass is ready to go live. All it needs is a primer, powder, and a projectile.
I'll be doing this on a Dillon 550. It has the .223 conversion kit installed, the small primer bar, the large powder bar in the
powder measure. it's cleaned, lubed, and ready to go. So let's get started!
Step 10 - Seat primer
There are several ways to prime your brass:
Some single stage presses like the RCBS Rockchucker have a priming arm that mounts to the press. It'll do the job, but
is rather slow.
RCBS also makes a Automatic Priming Tool, which is bench mounted priming tool that takes primer tubes. I used to have
one before I got my Dillon 550. It was faster than the hand priming tool I used.
For reloaders using a single stage or turret press, hand priming tools are popular. Some models like this one take
1 primer at a time. Other models have a primer feeder tray that allows you to dump a box of 100 primers in the feed tray. Prime
your brass by hand one by one until done.
Since the Dillon 550 uses primer tubes to load the primer magazine (which is another tube), I'll show you how it's done.
Other progressive presses like the Hornady Lock N Load uses the primer tube feed system as well.
To load the Dillon primer magazine tube you'll need primer pickup tubes and a primer flip tray:
Dump a box of primers onto the tray and shake the tray until all the primers are anvil side up:
Put the lid on the primer flip tray and flip the tray, all the primers should now be anvil side down:
Now you can fill the primer pick up tube by picking up the primers one by one
Then invert the primer pick up tube, place over the primer magazine tube, pull the cotter pin: this will feed your
primer magazine with the primers.
Then put the follower rod in the primer feed magazine.
At this point, every crank of the handle should feed a new primer anvil side up on the primer punch.
To seat a primer, simply put an unprimed case at the priming station and press the press handle forward to seat
the primer. If the primer doesn't go in easily, try rotating the case 1/4 or 1/2 turn and try again. If that doesn't help,
then most likely you didn't remove the primer crimp enough. Go back to "Step 8. decrimp primer pockets (if needed)"
Success! We'll use this case to calibrate the powder measure in the next step.
Step 11 - Drop powder
Single stage press uses will most likely use a separate powder measure and loading blocks to fill their cases one by one.
Bench rest shooters may use a powder measure in conjunction with a powder trickler to get precise loads.
Another option to drop powder is with a digital powder dispenser.
Progressive presses have case activated powder measures. The Dillon 550 uses a powder bar, whereas the
Hornady Lock N Load uses a cylinder type powder measure.
To calibrate a powder measure, you'll need a powder scale. The mechanical beam scale is less expensive,
rugged, but slow to use. I prefer an electronic scale. It gives the weight of a powder charge almost instantly.
After weighing a powder charge you can simply zero the scale again without dumping the old charge to weigh
a new charge. That's convenient.
I'll be using 24.5 grains of AA2460 powder and 55 grain FMJ projectiles. This is a load I've worked up before and
am comfortable with. Accurate Arms lists a starting load of 22.9 grains of powder and a maximum load of 25.4 grains.
Working up loads
Working up loads must be done for each powder and bullet weight combination you plan to load. Just remember to
work up loads and not pull one from a reloading manual and start making hundreds or even thousands of rounds of that
load then to find out it won't cycle your gun or the load is too hot.
Example of working up loads:
For AA2460 powder and 55 gr projectiles the starting load is listed as 22.9 grains and the max load is given at 25.4 grains. So the
increment is (25.4 - 22.9)/4 = (2.5 gr / 4) = .625 gr, round off to .6 grains. Based on that increment I would make loads
with this amount of powder:
You could go back later and make loads to fill in the gaps, e.g. say 24.1 and 24.7 gr loads were good, then next time make
23.8, 24.1, 24.4, 24.7, 25.0 gr loads. If all the loads were good feel free to pick one in between. My test loads of 24.4 grains
and 24.7 grains were good, so I settled on 24.5 because it's an half grain increment.
Calibrate the powder measure
Before you can drop powder, you have to calibrate the powder measure. The first step is to calibrate your powder scale
OK, calibrated, now let's see what the measure is throwing:
25.9 grains which is more than the 24.5 grains I was shooting for. By trial and error adjust the powder measure so it throws
the correct weight.
A little trick I do that is easy with an electronic scale is to throw and weigh 2 charges. If it's really throwing 24.5 grains,
then 2 charges should weight 49.0 grains. Let's see:
Nope, needs one more tweak...
My powder measure is dead on
Step 12 - Seat the bullet
Now that you have a primed case with the correct powder charge in it, the next step is to seat a bullet. Although seating
a bullet itself is a simple process, a lot people are confused on how to adjust the seating die so I'll explain that step first.
Adjust the seating die
This is how I adjust the seating die starting from scratch. My seating die like most other .223 seating dies have a built in
roll crimp function. Since I'm not going to roll crimp, I'll adjust the die so that it seats the bullet just under 2.260" which is
the max cartridge over all length (OAL). The load data I use says the OAL of a finished .223 round can be anywhere from
2.160" to 2.260".
The first step is to screw the seating stem all the way down on your seating die. Then back the die out so it's held in place by
only 2-3 threads. This guarantees the bullet will be seated without the roll crimp function of the die taking place.
Put a primed case with powder in the shell plate then place a projectile on in the case neck.
Lower the press handle. Chances are the first time nothing will happen because the seater isn't touching the projectile yet.
That's OK, while the press handle is down, turn the seating die down until you feel the seater touch the projectile.
Now raise the press handle so the case and projectile is out of the seating die and turn the seating die 1 full turn. The lower
the press handle. With each stroke of the press you'll see the projectile getting seated deeper and deeper. When it looks like
it's nearing the proper seating depth, remove the cartridge (yes you have a cartridge now!) and measure it with your calipers.
I like to shoot for 2.220" - 2.225" cartridge OAL as shown here, It's more than 1/2 way between the min and max OAL and
Keep turning the sizing die in small increments and measuring the OAL of the cartridge until you hit your mark, in my case 2.223"
OK, the seating die is seating the bullet so the OAL is now 2.223" but we took out all the adjustability in doing so, e.g. we
can't screw the seating stem down anymore. Remember we did so purposely so the roll crimp function of the die would not take place.
The next step is to back off the seating stem as much as possible.
Now lower the press handle so the cartridge is all the way into the seating die. Keep turning the seating die down until you feel
it stop. What makes it stop is the roll crimp function. Now we know where that point is, so back the seating out 1 full turn. Now
we have the seating die all the way into the toolhead as much as possible without the seating die roll crimping.
With the cartridge still in the seating die, screw the seating stem down until it stops. When it does, tighten the lock ring on the
Now we have a seating die threaded as much as possible into the tool head threads, we're sure the roll crimp function is not
engaged, it's seating the bullet so the OAL is now 2.223", and we have room to adjust the seating stem more in the up or down
position to fine tune the seating depth.
Seating the bullet
You've already done this when adjusting the seating die, but here's the sequence with the adjusted die.
Place a bullet on the primed and charged case:
Lower the press handle:
Raise the press handle:
Step 13 - Crimp the case (optional)
This topic comes up a lot in the Reloading Forum. Crimping comes down to a personal decision. First let's discuss the
four options available for crimping:
Option 1, not crimping at all, is simplest method of dealing with the crimp issue. I don't crimp my .223 rounds. There's usually
enough neck tension to hold the bullet securely in the case. The obvious advantages of not crimping are: you don't need an extra
crimp die, it's one more step you don't have to do if you're using a single stage press, and finally brass lengths don't have to be
the same OAL.
Option 2, roll crimp, has one advantage, that is the roll crimp function is usually part of the seating die. This means
no extra die to buy or an additional press stroke if you're using a single stage press. There's some minor disadvantages:
roll crimping requires brass of uniform OAL and the bullets must have a cannelure.
If you decide to use a roll crimp, simply screw the seating die down in small increments rather than backing it off 1 full turn
in Step 12 above until you get the amount of roll crimp desired.
Option 3, taper crimping, is usually done with a separate die. Dillon's 3 die rifle sets for example, include a separate taper
crimp die. Taper crimping has the advantage that it works with both bullets that have a cannelure and also with bullets that don't
have a cannelure. Since the taper crimp die is a separate die, that means one more press stroke for those reloading on a single
Option 4, is probably the most popular option for those that choose to crimp their .223 rounds. Again it's a separate die, but
it's also an inexpensive die, less than $10 from MidwayUSA and other reloading supply retailers. With the Lee Factory Crimp Die (FCD)
case length doesn't have to be consistent like it does for roll crimping. The Lee FCD crimps by squeezing the sides of the neck into the
bullet from the sides. If you've ever seen Winchester USA ammo (Q3131) you'll see they use a similar method to Lee's FCD. Babob
has a nice tutorial called Setup and Use of the Lee Factory Crimp Die.
Putting it all together
At this point everything should be adjusted: your priming system is full, the powder measure is dropping the right amount of
powder, you've adjusted the seating die.
Top off the powder measure, grab your processed brass, and load up the bullet tray with projectiles.
Insert the first case and prime it and then index the shell plate. Then insert the second case, pull the handle to drop powder
on the first case and press the handle all the way forward on the up stroke to seat the primer on the second case.
Then rotate the shell plate again. Insert a projectile on the first case, and then insert the third case.
Keep inserting cases and projectiles and pulling the press handle and now you'll have a finished round with each pull of the
Here an empty unprimed prepped case is at station 1, a primed case but with no powder is at station 2, a primed case with
powder is at station 3 with a bullet about to be seated, and the case at station 4 is complete, since I'm not crimping the case
it's just going along for the ride
Up they all go. I'll seat the primer on the down stroke by pressing the press handle forward
Now the case at station 1 is primed, the one at station 2 has powder, the bullet is seated in the case at station 3
I finally ran out of AA2460 so I called it quits for this session.
Those loads will join the others in my 223 reloads stash. See you at the range