Story and photographs by Bob Shell
In this segment on loading your own ammunition, we will focus on cartridge cases since this is what holds the other three main components (powder, primer and projectile).
All cases should be visually inspected and that includes new ones. I have bought a lot of cases from various brands and there are occasionally defective ones. While not common, they do exist and should be discarded. When in doubt, throw it out.
New cases can be out of round and/or over sized. Part of that comes from shipping when they are banged around. After sizing, I take an RCBS very low drag (VLD) tool and ream the inside of the casing’s necks. This helps seat the bullet and keeps it from catching on the sides of the case.
This is especially important with some flat-base slugs. I feel that this also adds accuracy and consistency. Sometimes, I’ll even create a cannelure, which is a groove that I crimp a little to aid in feeding the bullet. All revolver ammo should be crimped, especially with the heavier loads. Failure to follow this rule will usually result in the bullet coming out and tying up the cylinder.
Fired cases should be inspected prior to any other procedure. This is really important if you pick up range brass. There may be a reason someone discarded their brass rather than take it home.
Before inspecting, you should clean your cases. There are several ways to do this. I use a Dillon case cleaner with crushed walnut hulls and some cleaning liquid. A couple of hours in there and they come out looking great not to mention defects are easier to spot.
You may encounter cases with Berdan primers, and we will talk about this in a minute, or some that were shot with a load that was too hot. This will produce swelling and should be discarded. If you see a shiny ring about a quarter of an inch above the rim, that may indicate excess headspace in the gun that fired it.
One of the most common problems is a split neck. Cases that are heated and cooled over and over cause them to be brittle and the only way to combat that is to anneal them. This means softening the case by heating it. This isn’t practical with common cases, unless you have more time than I do. The Berdan primer is generally used in foreign military, as well as some commercial ammo. It can be reloaded, but you also need special tools, and as a rule it’s more trouble than it’s worth. In a later installment I will go into more detail on this. The standard American primer is the Boxer, which has a flash hole in the center of the case and is much easier to work with.
When a round is fired the case expands, so when you are reloading, the cases have to be resized. All die sets, which we talked about in Part I of this series, have what is known as a sizing die and which accomplishes this task. If you buy new brass, it normally doesn’t need to be fully resized, though the neck may need to be squared.DEAD FOOT ARMS
After you size the case, you will need to check for proper case length. Cases stretch during firing and sizing, so you should lubricate the inside of the neck, especially with bottleneck cases. If the case is too long, it might be hard to chamber or even cause a dangerous buildup of pressure in some instances. It could also have an affect on accuracy. If you are just doing some informal shooting, mixing brands of cases won’t cause any harm. Some people may disagree with that, but mixed cases work well, as long as they are in good condition. For more serious purposes, such as a big-game hunt, I will segregate the cases by brand and the times that they were fired. The other stuff is used for sighting-in or practice. I’ll run all of my hunting ammo through the chamber and magazine because it’s easier to fix the problem at the shop than in the field. Serious target shooters sort their brass out by lot number, weight, size of the flash hole and other factors that might effect accuracy. They measure groups in the thousandths of an inch, so they have to be more particular than the rest of us.
After you have checked out everything, then you are ready to prime. The primer should have some feel going in, and if it’s too loose, you might want to discard the case. Loose primer pockets are generally a result of hot loads, which will stretch them beyond usefulness. Sometimes soft brass will also cause this problem. The primer should be seated about .002 inch below the head and be flush with the case or you will have another set of problems. If the primer is too tight, you either have a dirty primer pocket or perhaps a military crimp around the primer pocket. Either problem will have to be resolved prior to seating it. There are plenty of tools out there to resolve these problems, but I ream out military-primer pockets as opposed to swaging (a process of bending or shaping cold metal), as this works better for me. If a pocket is dirty you’ll need to clean first. While this may seem like a small detail, improperly seated primers can ruin good ammo.
After priming, it is time to seat your bullets. There should be some resistance when seating so the bullet stays in the case. A bullet that is too loose will either come out or cause an inconsistent ignition. This problem can be caused by a bullet that is too small, a case neck that is too thin or an oversized expander plug. If the bullet is excessively tight, it may not seat at all and will cause other problems. In a later installment in this series we will get into expanding and various types of crimping.
Like everything else in life, you get what you give. If you follow these suggestions, it will go a long way toward helping you produce quality ammo. The thing is paying attention to small details. AmSJ
Here’s handloading part 1 and handloading part 3 if you missed it.
Story and photographs by John Wood
Do you recall how you became interested in prepping? Was it a personal experience from a localized disaster that you were not prepared for, or perhaps watching a catastrophic event on television? Maybe you fear the economic crisis in Greece or exodus of thousands of people from troubled countries who might reach the shores of America? Maybe it was triggered by a stock market shutdown due to a computer glitch?
Whatever the reason or motivation that started you into prepping, the good news is these are all issues you are thinking about. You might be eager to carry this concern forward to the next logical phase. Here are some initial planning steps to get you pointed in the right direction.
If you wanted to learn how to change the oil in your car, shoot a gun or know how to do yoga, what would you do first? You might buy a book on the subject, look up information on the Internet, watch a YouTube video or possibly sign up for a class to learn how-to, firsthand.
These are all reasonable approaches, but the core element here is to learn. This is the first step with prepping, too. It can be accomplished in a host of ways, including tasks as simple as visiting the local library or bookstore. Maybe it would help to seek out a few survivalist Internet sites like Alloutdoor.com or SurvivalCache.com. These sources can open many doors to education and planning.
Knowing what to do first, then second and so forth is crucial, because with prepping you really cannot afford to make too many mistakes. Also know that prepping is a lifelong learning process.
Get a big notebook! In this prepping journal you will want to start jotting down copious thoughts,
ideas, concepts, basic planning lists, evaluation of gear or prepping assets, to-buy gear lists, and a rudimentary budget to carry it all out over time. While prepping is an expedient activity, hopefully the disaster won’t happen tomorrow. Unfortunately, it might be next week.
Start by asking yourself basic questions that relate to your situation: What kinds of problems are you likely to encounter? Will you bug in or out, meaning will you stay put in your fortress or take off? If you leave home, where will you go, and what will you need to take with you?
These kinds of thoughts help to get the mental juices flowing and face the realities of prepping.
[su_note note_color=”#de5900″ text_color=”#ffffff” radius=”2″] In your journal start with topic or headline pages. These might include: [su_row] [su_column size=”1/2″]
1. bug-in and/or bug-out plans
3. transportation routes
4. water and food resources
5. medical issues and first-aid supplies
6. self-defense [/su_column]
7. family security
8. weapons, ammo and supplies
10. hardware and tools
11. vehicle readiness
12. skill attainment and execution.
As you can imagine, these lists can become endless the more you consider the possibilities. Keep learning and keep planning.[/su_note]
You may be an experienced outdoors person or have completed Delta Force training in the Army, which certainly would have provided some background skills, but more than likely you’re an accountant, an elementary school teacher or mechanic at the local garage. You need to assess the skills you possess and those of your team, which can include family, friends or like-minded individuals. Everyone has a role. This will help you determine what other skills you need to acquire.
Can you shoot firearms and reload them without blinking? Can you put up a tent in a windstormor light a campfire in a downpour? Can you pry open a can of beans without a can opener? Do you know how to set a broken bone or sew up a deep laceration? Can you find your campsite in the pitch dark? What happens when the power and water goes off at home? Just think of the scenarios you might face during a severe event like a tornado, forest fire or widespread economic collapse.
Begin to seek out local sources for skills training. Look at potential courses taught at local community colleges, or outdoors groups. Look on bulletin boards at supplier stores to see if related events are scheduled. You will likely be surprised at all of the prepper activities going on right in your own hometown. Avail yourself to as many of these training opportunities as you can. Send one person, then execute train-the-trainer.
Now comes the fun part. What stuff do you need to prep? First, look at what you already have. Undoubtedly you will find a ton of stuff suitable for a bug-out or stay-home plan. This could include kitchen utensils, sleeping bags or blankets, camping gear (tents, stoves, lanterns, etc.), a hunting shotgun or rifle, backpacks or tote bags, extra sets of suitable clothing, shoes
Don’t discard or discount anything. An extra bicycle could be used to pedal around your bug-out camp. Those plastic storage boxes can be used to collect emergency gear for a grab and go. Pack up some extra personal hygiene products, first-aid supplies, hardware, garden tools, make up a mechanics tool box, save that old battery-powered radio, those sports binoculars and fold-out chairs. Any of these kinds of things can be used to set up a bug-out camp elsewhere.
Prepping is a process, and not something you can accomplish overnight. You have to take small bites, but chew thoroughly. Practice with your gear ahead of time. Forever add to your journal pages, revise them and replan accordingly. Study, plan, learn, train and execute are all the means to becoming a proficient prepper. It all starts with that
first step. ASJ