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  #1  
Old 08-26-2007, 10:56 PM
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Reloading military 5.56 NATO brass


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Can anyone tell me if there is any difference in the primer pocket on military brass compared to commercial .223 brass?

I ask because I see that Midway sells CCI small rifle primers designated for military reloads. Are these primers dimensionally any different than other small rifle primers?

Thanks...Jeff
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Old 08-27-2007, 05:13 AM
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They are the same dimension as small rifle primers. Military brass will have a crimp on the pocket that needs to be removed to insert a new primer. The crimp can be swaged out with a tool from Dillon, RCBS, and I believe Lyman. It can also be removed by cutting it out with a suitable reamer.

I have used small rifle primmers of several types in a Rock river Arms AR15. The only reall difference is that the cups on the military primers are thicker to prevent a slam fire if the round doesn't fully chamber. There has been much discussion of how often this occurs but I use the military primers in my auto to be on the safe side.

Don
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Old 08-27-2007, 06:12 AM
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Don covered it well. I will add that CCI makes two military primers of each size: The military hardness primers for general consumption and true mil-spec primers for the military. The difference will be that the latter will consist of lots that have had samples put through more stringent proof of performance testing; reliability at temperature extremes, in particular.

You should note that CCI says to use magnum primer data for these military primers. That is generally a good thing with ball powders (which the military uses these days), as they are harder to ignite than stick powders and need the extra flame. With some powder/bullet combinations in some guns, however, there can be an accuracy improvement from minimizing the primer's contribution to chamber pressure. If you are getting into 1 m.o.a. and smaller group sizes, you would want to try CCI's military and benchrest primers, both. See if you gain any accuracy advantage with either one? Note that because the magnum primers light more powder faster, you may need a slightly reduced charge with them, so work you loads up over again if you switch to them from any standard primer.

About every other year that I've gone to Camp Perry for the National Matches, I've heard at least one "slam fire" immediately follow the command to load. Mind you, thousands of contestants are there, each coming to the line numerous times. Most have had trigger work done on their guns, so the source of the ignition is seldom a certainty? A person who didn't keep his finger clear of the trigger during loading is bound to claim a slam-fire just to avoid embarrassment. On the other hand, when you eject an unfired round from one of the military guns, you typically see a small inertial firing pin indentation, so it isn't a zero possibility. I will only say that I have shot Federal benchrest primers (considered among the most sensitive) in the Garand, M1-A, and AR for years without experiencing a slam fire. This will be true for most people. Just be extra sure these guns are always pointed down range or at a safe backstop when you load them.
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Old 08-27-2007, 06:20 AM
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Moving along beyond primer choice, you should also be diligent about working up. Military brass is often thicker than commercial - both because they intend it to take more abuse before it's fired and also because it isn't designed to be reloaded.

So case capacity can be a tad less than commercial cases. You can still achieve near-top pressure/velocity, but with a bit less powder. So don't just skip to MAX loads or even your pet load without backing down first.
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Old 08-27-2007, 06:43 AM
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I'll add that the brass is also harder. You will need to anneal the case necks more often than commercial brass to get best case life. You will also get better life if you resize only as far as necessary for reliable feeding. That usually means pushing the shoulder back only a couple of thousands from their fire-formed position, and not all the way back to SAMMI maximums. This will marry the loaded rounds to your gun's chamber, and prevent them from chambering in guns with tighter chambers. Redding makes shell holders with graduated thickness for the purpose of helping you set your loading dies up this way.
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Last edited by unclenick; 08-27-2007 at 06:49 AM.
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Old 08-27-2007, 09:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by unclenick
I'll add that the brass is also harder. You will need to anneal the case necks more often than commercial brass to get best case life. You will also get better life if you resize only as far as necessary for reliable feeding. That usually means pushing the shoulder back only a couple of thousands from their fire-formed position, and not all the way back to SAMMI maximums. This will marry the loaded rounds to your gun's chamber, and prevent them from chambering in guns with tighter chambers. Redding makes shell holders with graduated thickness for the purpose of helping you set your loading dies up this way.
Thanks to everyone who posted a reply. One more question. Has anyone used the collet type dies to resize the necks only on cartridge cases? Will these dies help with case life? Lastly, if I resize only the case mouth, will I run into chambering problems while using the original firearm the case was previously shot in? Can it be just as effective to back off the full length sizing die a few thousandth's to neck size only. When I've done this in the past, I've had problems with rechambering in a bolt action rifle. Perhaps I just backed off the full length die too much?

OK, I guess that was more than one question. I've been reloading for a couple of decades, but I always full length sized except as noted above. I know I've spent many hours decapping (mostly .30-06) crimped military cases! Now that I'm shooting 5.56, I've learned to buy deprimed military cases. THAT is the way to go! Many thanks!
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Old 08-27-2007, 09:23 AM
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Yes and yes and maybe. The collet dies have a learning curve, and you have to get used to working with them. They have the advantage that the mandrel prevents the formation of the "dreaded donut" ring of brass at the neck/shoulder junction in the case that the standard sizing method produces. You eventually have to clean the donut out with an inside neck reamer when you size by the usual means.

Neck sized-only rounds (by any method) are strictly for the gun they were fired in before the neck sizing, and are usually too tight to chamber from a magazine. This is because of the tilted angle of entry into the chamber caused by running up the feed ramp from a magazine. Brass, however, springs back slightly when it is fireformed, so it should still fit back in when fed in one-at-a-time by hand. The one exception is if your chamber was reamed off the bore axis. Then the case comes out slightly different lengths on opposite sides of the tilt. It will then chamber hard unless you rotate the case into the exact orientation it had when you fired it last. Some people do this anyway, always making some mark on the headstamp rest at 12:00 or 6:00 or whatever position in the chamber they can see well.
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Last edited by unclenick; 08-27-2007 at 09:29 AM.
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