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Posted: 3/28/2009 8:19:48 PM EDT
So, now that I have my Lee Classic Turret set up, I'm moving on to the next phase in my never ending saga of handloading. I'm going to start loading for rifles.

I've been handloading for handguns for over 15 years, first on a Rockchucker, then on the same Rockchucker and a Dillon Square Deal B, and now with a Rockchucker and the LCT. I've never been a high volume rifle shooter, so I have always contented myself with factory rifle ammo. However, with the general cost increases of .223/5.56mm, an expected increase in my volume of shooting the same, and my general enjoyment of handloading in general, I've decided to branch out into rifle cartridges.

I know that handloading for rifles is much more involved. I'm starting out with two rifle cartridges on pretty much opposite ends of the spectrum, the .223/5.56mm and the .45-70 Government. My .45-70 shooting is going to be low enough volume that I'm going to just do that on the Rockchucker, probably in batches of 25 or less. The .223 is going to be higher volume, and I'd very much like to do it on the LCT. I don't have any interest in buying a full progressive for rifle loading right now, so my options are going to be either the Rockchucker or LCT.

Here is my general understanding of the rifle handloading process:

1) Clean brass
2) Deprime (can be done before cleaning)
3) Swage primer pocket if military brass
4) Clean primer pocket if not done in a previous step
5) Lube cases
6) Resize and prime
7) Clean brass of lube (can also be done on finished rounds)
8) Trim if necessary (can this be done effectively before resize?)
9) Clean up case mouth in the event of triming
10)Charge with powder
11)Seat bullet
12)Crimp (if crimping and not done as part of seating step)
13)Clean loaded ammo of lube (if not already done to resized cases)

So, is that about right, and am I missing anything?

I'm looking for folks who handload .223 on a LCT. What process do you follow? How are your dies set up? Is it possible to put the case on the press for resize and end with a loaded round using only the four stations on the LCT and without removing the case until it becomes a loaded round (I can't see how it would be, but I'm hoping I'm wrong).

One other question, if I lube and then choose to clean cases at the end (as loaded ammunition) how much of a problem does the lube cause with powder sticking to it?

Link Posted: 3/28/2009 9:28:33 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 3/28/2009 10:01:35 PM EDT by ma96782]
Originally Posted By Landric:
Here is my general understanding of the rifle handloading process:

1) Clean brass

Liquid bath or tumble/vibratory cleaner.

2) Deprime (can be done before cleaning)

I'll usually lube and then, de-prime and re-size in one step.  I do it after cleaning to prevent damage to my re-sizing die.

But, some crimped in primers are tough.   So, you may have to go to a universal de-capper (or to the hammer and anvil method) to de-prime.

Then, a separate lube and re-size step.

3) Swage primer pocket if military brass

I use reamer to deal with a military crimp.

4) Clean primer pocket if not done in a previous step

Optional step.

5) Lube cases

Spray on or apply w/ fingers or with lube pad.

Don't forget lube for the inside of the case necks.

6) Resize and prime

Lube, re-size and check the re-sized brass with a gauge.  

The gauge is also useful to measure case length.  Or use a caliper to measure.

Then IF NEEDED, trim and de-bur/chamfer the mouth.

7) Clean brass of lube (can also be done on finished rounds)

Second cleaning to de-lube cases.

I use a liquid bath........IF you tumble, be aware that media could get stuck in flash holes and primer pockets.

Then, for ME........I wouldn't tumble loaded rounds for any long period of time.  The debate has been posted before.

You can do what you're comfortable with.

After the 2nd cleaning, cases are OK to re-prime.  I wouldn't trim after re-priming cause I don't want slivers of brass inside of my cases along with the powder.

8) Trim if necessary (can this be done effectively before resize?)

IMHO.......re-size first.......then trim.

Anyway, I've done my trimming in a prior step.

9) Clean up case mouth in the event of triming

Done in a prior step.  Right after trimming.

10)Charge with powder

11)Seat bullet

12)Crimp (if crimping and not done as part of seating step)

I do mine in one step, seat and crimp.......what you do is your choice.

13)Clean loaded ammo of lube (if not already done to resized cases)

Inspection of rounds and OK a final wipe w/ a rag wouldn't hurt.

Course.........you're free to follow the way I do it..........or not.

Aloha, Mark

PS.............that was hard to read...........try............

Here is my .02 on the subject of  “production loading” of rifle cartridges, for my “gas guns.“  Let’s start with “once fired” LC military cases, in whatever number of cases you want for your, “lot.”

1) Inspect and clean the cases. I use a liquid brass cleaner (Birchwood Casey # 33845 CCI).  Follow the mixing instructions on the package.  After the soak/cleaning, the cases are removed from the solution, rinsed and air dried. The solution is re-usable.  IF, you want to use an oven for drying, use the lowest heat setting.  

Why a liquid brass cleaner?  Well, it eliminates the need to buy a tumbler (or vibratory machine). I don’t have to buy media and I save on electricity. There is the added bonus of no noise and/or dust in my work space. And, if I were to tumble/clean de-primed brass, I would have to worry about stuck media in primer pockets and flash holes.

2) With once fired military brass, this next step only has to be done once. You could de-cap primers with the standard de-cap/re-sizer die.  Though due to the primer crimp, there is a high incidence of parts breakage.  IMHO, de-cap the once fired military brass using either, a “universal” de-capper die or with a skinny nail/punch and anvil (with a hole in it, large enough for the old primer to fall out of, but still support the case rim). Or, buy the LEE military primer de-capper set (#90102-.30 cal., #90103-.22 cal.). Simply, run the nail/punch down through the case neck. The nail will enter the flash hole and rest against the old primer. Put the case on the anvil (old primer centered over the anvil’s hole). Then, with a hammer knock out the old primer, letting the old primer fall through the hole in the anvil. Yes, the military crimp is sometimes that stubborn.

3) Again, since we’re using once fired military brass, this next step has to be done only once.  The primer crimp will need to be removed.  The crimp gets either swaged or reamed/cut. My friend has a Dillon swage and I use a Lyman hand reamer/cutting tool. Both can do the job......one is cheaper. Lyman hand reamer (#7777785 Large, #7777784 Small).  I do the crimp removal while watching TV. It's as simple as: pick up a case, insert the tool into the primer pocket and twist, remove case, next.....

*Commercial cases, usually don't have a primer crimp to bother with.  So, steps 2 and 3 can be omitted. Likewise, for the next time you load these “already treated” military cases.

4) Next, is lubing the cases.  I use a spray lube on the outside of the cases......not too much......and not too little. As you re-load more and more, you'll get better at judging the amount needed. You don't want dimples on the shoulders of your cases (too much lube) and you don't want a stuck case in your die (not enough lube). I simply lay a single layer of cases on a piece of cardboard and spray.  Shake the cardboard a little and spray the cases again.

5) Also, I like to use a little bit of mica inside of the case neck, just so I don't have to hear the "squeak." Not every case gets the mica. You can feel it and hear it, when you're getting to the point of having to add more mica.  I use a Forster original case graphiter  (#011341).  IF you have a carbide neck expander button you won't need the mica.

6) I use a single station press (RCBS Rock Chucker). You could use a progressive Dillon IF you wanted to. It's a personal choice. But, with whatever press you choose, consider shell plate/shell holder and/or press "flex.”  I use a regular FL size/de-capper die, NOT the small base dies. To begin, lube your cases.  Then, FL size and de-cap, 1 or 2 cases for a test. Gauge the re-sized case(s), to confirm that the "correct size" has been achieved.   I use a Forster Products case gauge (the Wilson or Dillon case gauges are also popular choices).  Insert a case into the case gauge.  The headstamped end of the case, needs to be at or between the high and low cuts on the gauge, to pass. This checks the headspace.  While the other end, is used to check if the case will need to be trimmed (a job for later on).   IF, it’s not the “correct size,” your die setting will need adjustment. Lower the ram and simply screw the die in or out a little. Don’t forget about the lock nut. Then, re-size another couple of test cases and check your work again. Repeat the test and adjustments, as needed.  When you're satisfied that your test cases are properly re-sized, do the entire lot (remember to test some cases throughout the run).

7) Case trimming.  Check first:  Place the gauge (w/cartridge case in it) headstamp end down, on a flat surface. The case will sit on the flat surface. The neck end should be, at or between the two cuts, to be correct.   IF you have a caliper.........measuring works too.

For ME, first time: New, once fired (purchased and given) and range pick up brass are always trimmed (with few exceptions) for consistency sake.

I'll trim the cases with my Gracey trimmer (it’ll trim, chamfer, and de-burr in a single operation). Remember, we are doing this as a "lot." So, IF one case needs a trim......they all get a run through the trimmer.

More info on the Gracey Trimmer...........


Or choose the Giraud.........


NOTE:  IF it's not done with your brand of trimmer..........don't forget to slightly chamfer and slightly de-burr the necks. It'll ease bullet seating. Use this style of tool.........


8)  Clean off the case lube.  Either with another soak in Birchwood Casey cleaner or a quick wipe off with a cloth dampened in solvent.  

9) While you're holding the cases......inspect them for, "other problems." Splits or impending case separation. IF, I see it or suspect it......the whole lot may get dumped (or just a few).  With my 7.62x51 NATO brass (shot through an M1A), I don’t anneal, I’ll usually get 3 re-loads out of a case.  IMHO…..a 4th would be, "pushing it."

10) Some old primer residue may still be left in the primer pocket.  It’s optional to clean it.  I use a LEE primer pocket cleaner (#90101).  It flips over to do both large and small primer pockets.  Insert the tool into the primer pocket and twist.

Also optional, is to de-burr and make the flash hole a uniform size.  The tool is a simple device that is inserted through the case neck. An adjustable flange on the shaft prevents it from going any further into the case. A quick twist and the job is done.

More info on Preparing Cases For Long Range Accuracy


11) My cases are then primed w/ a handheld LEE Auto Prime tool (#90230). It comes with both large and small primer rods. But, you'll have to purchase the correct shell holder(s) for your caliber of choice.

12) Then, it all gets loaded, as usual (powder is measured and dropped into the case, bullet gets placed and bullet gets seated).

For those who don't know about it.........IMHO…………"the secret" to re-loading a bottle neck cartridge for a gas gun is.......a case gauge.  There are many different brands and ways to gauge your re-loads.  



Remember, like most everything......YOUR MILEAGE WILL VARY. There are many other products, loads, and ways to skin a cat......this was only my advice. Which you got for FREE.

Aloha, Mark

Link Posted: 3/28/2009 9:30:25 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 3/28/2009 9:39:00 PM EDT by d_striker]
I use a LCT...IMO, the only thing about rifle cartridges that is more intensive is the brass prep.

Do yourself a favor and get an extra turret for your brass prep dies.  I have a designated turret for my Lee sizer/deprimer, RCBS swaging die, and RCBS X-die.  Then remove the indexing rod and you have a turret for all of your brass prep dies that you never have to set up again.

Here's what I personally do as far as brass prep for .223:

1. Tumble in walnut
2. Lube, size/deprime w/ Lee die
3. Trim
4. Size using X-die
5. Tumble w/ Corn cob to polish and get lube off
6. Clean out primer pocket.  (I like to wait until after the 2nd tumble in order to remove any media from the flash hole.)  
7. Swage primer pockets if needed.

Note-Sometimes I'll swage the primer pockets after step 3.  It just depends on my mood.  

On my loading turret, I have 1. empty slot, 2. charging die w/ powder dispenser, 3. Bullet seating die, 4. Lee Factory Crimp Die.  I use the empty slot on the turret for priming the case w/ the Lever Prime.

After my brass is all prepped, loading is actually faster than loading pistol cartridges for me.

ETA-If I didn't use an X-Die, this would be my routine:

1. Tumble in walnut
2. Lube, size/deprime w/ Lee die
3. Trim, if needed
4. Swage primer pockets if needed.
5. Tumble w/ Corn cob to polish and get lube off
6. Clean out primer pocket.  

Link Posted: 3/28/2009 10:54:24 PM EDT
OK, thanks for the info so far.  I think I see that I am going to have to start looking at this process differently with rifle ammo.  With handgun, I generally start with cleaned brass and end with loaded rounds.  I don't generally clean primer pockets on every loading.  Every couple of loadings I deprime after tumbling and clean the pockets, but that has really been my only prep.  Its worked for me for 15 years to make reliable handgun ammo, so I haven't changed it and its pretty much ingrained.

As I see rifle handloading, the case prep is much more in depth, and includes the resize step.  I need to break down the case prep and the loading into two different parts of the process and I'll be on the right track.

Keep the advise coming, I need it.

Link Posted: 3/29/2009 3:53:35 AM EDT
My steps are pretty close to D-Strikers...

I use the Lee Classic Turret also. I luv it.
+1 on getting an extra turret. I have my deprimer/full and neck sizing dies on one and have my charging, bullet seating and crimping dies on another. Like mentioned above I use the empty slot to prime.

My steps are;
1. lube, deprime/full case resize
2. neck resize
3. wipe cases down with a clean dry cloth
4. clean primer pocket
5. resize/chamfer (I use a lee zip trimmer)
6. clean using a scotch pad on the zip trimmer

7. prime
8. powder Charge
9. seat the bullet
10. crimp the bullet
11. Done!

I usually do 1 - 6 not long after I have visited the range so I keep on top of it. I don't usually shoot more than 50 to100 rounds when I go so it's not that hard to keep up on it using the Lee Zip Trimmer.
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