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  #1  
Old 03-01-2008, 01:54 PM
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223 to 221 Fireball.......comments please


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Over the summer I picked up a couple of hundred 223 brass at the shooting range (mixed head stamp) thinking I may want/need to resize them to 221 Fireball. The lack of availability of 221 Fireball brass tells me resizing is probably a good thing to learn to do.

I don't have the "conversion dies" like are offered by Redding or RCBS but when I bought my 221 Fireball die set(s) on eBay I got a set of Hornady New Dimension Dies (2 die FL set) and a set of RCBS dies (2 die FL set). The RCBS FL sizer die did not come with the expander ball mechanism and I have been using the Hornady dies to make my Fireball ammo.

Yesterday I got motivated to try some case reforming after reading a thread on another forum because they were not using the conversion die set, just an ordinary FL sizer die with the expander ball stem removed to resize the brass. So, I cleaned and polished the RCBS FL sizer die missing the expander and tried my hand at reforming some brass in my Ultramag press. The Ultramag made reforming the case almost effortless.

This is where I am. I did 40 cases because I had that many open slots in a cartridge tray. I lost two cases during the initial reforming step. I adjusted the RCBS "case forming die" so the shoulder was a few thousandths of an inch higher than needed. My thinking here was to do a final resize just like a fire formed case when the neck was cut to the proper length. The picture shows a 223 case (left), a reformed 223 case with the long neck, a "finished product reformed case" from 223 to 221 Fireball, and a factory 221 Fireball (far right).



What I'm struggling with is rough cutting the excess neck so I can FL size them in the Hornady die, decap, and do a final trim to length. I don't have a lathe type trimmer, just the Lee Case Length Trimmer set up with the Lock Stud and Cutter. I can expand the neck of the long neck case with the Hornady expander ball w/o decapping if needed but the neck is way too long to use with the Lee Case Length Trimmer.

I tried using a hacksaw and holding the case in the Lee Lock Stud. That was not good, I trashed too many cases. I also tried using a really fat drill bit and boring down the center of the neck to do a rough cut. That didn't work well either, I couldn't keep it on center. I'm thinking about buying a Dremel Tool to rough cut the case neck and it would be nice to have a jig of some type to get a controlled and consistent length rough cut on the brass.

Any suggestions?
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Last edited by flashhole; 03-01-2008 at 02:04 PM.
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  #2  
Old 03-01-2008, 02:17 PM
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Well, when I make 30 Herrett from 30-30, I often use a common plumbing tubing cutter (the kind with a wheel and rollers). Three or four turns and it's rough cut.

On thing I know will NOT help is my old trick of using the Fireball seater die as an intermediate size die. What ruins the deal is the crimp shoulder, which crumples the neck every time.

The other potential problem is too-thick necks. If you use thickish cases such as military or Federal brand 223s, you may also have to ream or turn the necks. Cases with thinner walls (WW and possibly RP) might work out as is. Check by miking a dummy loaded case with bullet as compared to a factory Fireball load. A neck with bullet more than about three thou fatter than a factory load may not chamber or may spike pressures.

(That paragraph for the less-experienced reloader. Old heads pardon me.)
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  #3  
Old 03-01-2008, 02:43 PM
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My tubing cutter can handle 4" pipe. That's a little too big for this. I bought it when I used to weld up my own pipe corrals. I'll look at what is available in a mini tubing cutter.

I was surprised at how well the RCBS FL sizer die with the expander stem removed reformed the 223 case.

So far, the four cases I reformed and finished chambered w/o difficulty. I will sort them by headstamp afte I get a few of each and load them up and try them before I do all of a particular headstam that won't fit.
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Old 03-01-2008, 05:21 PM
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You might consider one of the Harbor Freight mini cutters with a 1/16 inch thick four inch cutoff wheel. You could make a cutoff jig with a small piece of angle iron with a stop welded or bolted in to give you the correct length. These are not very pricy from harbor freight. Their built just like the big 12 and 14 inch abrasive wheel cutters only on a smaller scale.

Like Rocky says I'd bet your going to have to turn the necks to get the correct neck thickness. That's going to entail not only a neck turner, but a neck turning gauge. Harbor freight may have a ball micrometer at a reasonable price also, I haven't looked to see.

I shot a 357 herrit for a while, boy I hated making those cases.
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  #5  
Old 03-02-2008, 11:51 AM
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I bought a mini tubing cutter. The one I bought cost $6.99 at the Home Center and I bought it because it looked like it would allow the deepest insertion depth of the long neck reformed case.

Inserting the long neck case as far as it would go into the mini tubing cutter allowed removal of sufficent length of neck to run the case through the Hornady FL sizer die.

Chucking the FL sized case mounted in the Lee Lock Stud in a cordless drill let me trim them to length using the Lee Case Length gage and Trimmer. Lots of brass spirals and chips peeled off the cases.

I ran them through the FL sizer a second time just for good measure, sort of a stress test to ensure the integrity of the case neck because that's where the fallout was.

I lost about 25% of the brass because of neck splits and it took me about 2 hours to complete 50 cases but that's 50 cases from range pick up brass I didn't have before.

My Rem 700 has a tight chamber. Only the R-P headstamp reformed brass fit in the chamber of my gun. The rest of the brass needs to be outside neck turned. I could see and feel the case where it stopped from chambering. It stuck outside the chamber by the length of the neck. I could force it into the chamber but had to hammer on the bolt to get it out. Seating a bullet will only make the situation worse. It seems Hornady brass has the thickest body.

Now I have to get a neck turn tool.
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  #6  
Old 03-02-2008, 12:20 PM
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Flashole, try this.

The RCBS trim dies allow the brass to stick up above the die, and you can remove the top end with a mini hack. I used a washer/spacer to give me a bit of extra room, then trimmed away with a Lee trimmer. A while back, .350 REm Mag brass was hard to find, and I did it this way.

Because the brass is thicker as you squeeze it down, you may need to reduce the neck dimension a bit with an outside neck reamer.
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  #7  
Old 03-02-2008, 01:58 PM
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Take an old, 223, 222, 221 seater or sizer and cut off the top and bottom so the end of that case sticks out just far enough to cut it a little long with a hack saw. Used to make .223s into .222s not near as bad, but I used an extra .222 seater I bought real cheap at a gunshow for my trim die. Lucky I am a tool and die maker and had access to all types of tools for the tooling end of it. In your case any one of the seaters would work, I'd pick the least expensive and use it for your initial size down die also. Kinda nice when it is stuck in that die fairly tight to cut it off then.
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  #8  
Old 03-02-2008, 02:41 PM
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If you have access to a metal lathe and carbide cutting bit you can convert your present "forming die" to a cut off die as well. On the lathe, cut off the case hardened upper die part until it is maybe 5-10 thousants longer than the desired case length when you put the case fully into the die (with the press and shell holder). You can hack saw off the excess length without damage to the die since it is case hardened and the hacksaw won't cut it. Trim off the cut with a mill file before withdrawing it and you will be ready for final sizing and trimming.

Once you have the die body trimmed to the length you wish you can make it a real "intermediate" step form die by drilling out the neck a little with a common carbide masonry bit used in a drill press, with the die held vertically in a vise. To reduce burrs at the shoulder, insert the drill from the bottom, not the top. I would use a cheap 5/16 masonry bit with the carbide insert ground down to as small as I could get the it for this step. The dimensions at this point are not critical, nor that it be perfectly straight, this die body will only be a roughing step for your case forming. Run the cases through the modified die and trim them to the rough length. You can smooth/polish the edges of the roughing die's new neck with a 1/4" dowel rod wrapped with 320 to 400 grit carborundum paper and spun in a drill.

Anneal the necks by holding the case by the head and heating the neck only enough for a blue blush to show on the shoulders or until your fingers get too hot, drop it into a pail of water to quench. DO NOT heat until they are glowing red, that's too hot!

Run the annealed cases into the final sizer, using the expander button. Trim to the final length. Turn the necks as necessary to complete the process.

As you may guess, I get a kick out of modifying excess die bodies to make case forming die sets for my rifles. I get the extra dies from friends and garage sales, etc.

Last edited by ranger335v; 03-02-2008 at 02:48 PM.
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  #9  
Old 03-02-2008, 03:44 PM
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Two safety concerns:

You will end up with thick case necks. Won't notice it until you seat bullets; then if you measure the thickness of the case neck with bullet inserted against a factory load's measurements, will see how much thicker the brass necks are. That extra brass has to go...either by outside tuning or by inside reaming. OF the two, reaming has fallen out of favor.

The second concern is that of case volume. Thicker brass,,,less case volume...higher pressure with the same charges used in factory brass. Will have to measure the formed case's volume and compare it to a factory case's.
-------
Have managed to get into trouble with thick case necks from formed brass twice...both times from the same mistake, so I'm a slow learner.

Made cases that fit one chamber just fine. Years later, made the mistake (TWICE!) of using those old formed cases in a different rifle's chamber. Worked fine it the first rifle, had reamed the necks for the right amount of "slack" for it's chamber. Chambered in the second rifle, but evidently there just wasn't enough "slack" to let the case mouth release the bullet (cases shouldn't be a perfect fit to a chamber, should have a tiny bit of slack to allow the case to "open up" and let the bullet go).

First time it happened, locked up a bolt action....no damge done that I could tell, but that would be just pure luck.

Second time, was with a 7.62 Tok. Back then, weren't any commerical cases to be had, so we made them from .222's or .223's. Worked fine in the pistol they were made for(broom handle) because I had thinned the case necks to a good fit to it's chamber. Evidently the second pistol (a Tok. many years after making the cases for the first gun) was tighter. Never occued to me that a war trophy Tok would have a tighter chamber than a commercial mauser.

Fired a few...noticed the recoil felt rather firece, but the bullets wee on target. By about the 3rd or 4th round, noticed the ejected cases looked kind of odd....looked like 9mm's. At each shot, the bullet couldn't realese from the case...so it ruptured at the case neck, dragging the bullet AND THE CASE NECK though the bore and down range. Pressure had to be way over normal, but no cracks to the pistol's frame or slide.

Last edited by ribbonstone; 03-02-2008 at 03:47 PM.
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  #10  
Old 03-02-2008, 04:03 PM
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Thanks, good advice all around. Fireball brass is not all that readily available (seems no one has any stock) and I don't mind spending the time reforming, especially when I get the host brass for free. I will definately improve my process with the tips you guys are sharing.
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  #11  
Old 03-03-2008, 06:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flashhole View Post
Over the summer I picked up a couple of hundred 223 brass at the shooting range (mixed head stamp) thinking I may want/need to resize them to 221 Fireball. The lack of availability of 221 Fireball brass tells me resizing is probably a good thing to learn to do.

I don't have the "conversion dies" like are offered by Redding or RCBS but when I bought my 221 Fireball die set(s) on eBay I got a set of Hornady New Dimension Dies (2 die FL set) and a set of RCBS dies (2 die FL set). The RCBS FL sizer die did not come with the expander ball mechanism and I have been using the Hornady dies to make my Fireball ammo.

Yesterday I got motivated to try some case reforming after reading a thread on another forum because they were not using the conversion die set, just an ordinary FL sizer die with the expander ball stem removed to resize the brass. So, I cleaned and polished the RCBS FL sizer die missing the expander and tried my hand at reforming some brass in my Ultramag press. The Ultramag made reforming the case almost effortless.

This is where I am. I did 40 cases because I had that many open slots in a cartridge tray. I lost two cases during the initial reforming step. I adjusted the RCBS "case forming die" so the shoulder was a few thousandths of an inch higher than needed. My thinking here was to do a final resize just like a fire formed case when the neck was cut to the proper length. The picture shows a 223 case (left), a reformed 223 case with the long neck, a "finished product reformed case" from 223 to 221 Fireball, and a factory 221 Fireball (far right).



What I'm struggling with is rough cutting the excess neck so I can FL size them in the Hornady die, decap, and do a final trim to length. I don't have a lathe type trimmer, just the Lee Case Length Trimmer set up with the Lock Stud and Cutter. I can expand the neck of the long neck case with the Hornady expander ball w/o decapping if needed but the neck is way too long to use with the Lee Case Length Trimmer.

I tried using a hacksaw and holding the case in the Lee Lock Stud. That was not good, I trashed too many cases. I also tried using a really fat drill bit and boring down the center of the neck to do a rough cut. That didn't work well either, I couldn't keep it on center. I'm thinking about buying a Dremel Tool to rough cut the case neck and it would be nice to have a jig of some type to get a controlled and consistent length rough cut on the brass.

Any suggestions?
Ok if you are looking for a really good way to chop them to length accurately and quickly...at least for a rough cut this is what I did.

buy whats called a mini chop saw
http://cgi.ebay.com/MINI-HIGH-SPEED-...QQcmdZViewItem

If you have access to a lathe make a small jig. I used a piece of 3/4 round steel bar. Cut a piece of the bar 1.5" long. Center drill it the length with a 1/4" drill. Next drill the length of that 3/8" but only till you can push your formed cases thru the piece just enough to extend the neck thru the 1/4" hole the desired cutoff length. Effectively making a crude chamber. Set that up in the vise of the mini chop saw ...tighten it in the vise. Shove the cases in from the back side and chop them off. The blade that comes with the saw cuts very clean and only really requires a touch up on my rotary trimmer.
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  #12  
Old 03-03-2008, 06:50 AM
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If you'd like I will post you a pic. Also when you are resizing I found it helps to do all your .223 cases about half way first then go back and finish them to full length sized. Keeps the amount of air trapped against the shoulder to a minimum and reduces dents.
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Old 03-03-2008, 09:31 AM
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Out at the gunrange Saturday a fellow had a .221 Fireball in a Rem 700.

Was making really tiny groups at 100 yds - I was impressed!

If wanting to go to that caliber, I'll be hard pressed to decide between it and a .204 Ruger.
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  #14  
Old 03-03-2008, 11:52 AM
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I have two of each. Out to 200 yds. the .221 is excellent, its not that it won't shooter much farther but beyond 200 is where the .204 kicks butt.
As a side note my .221 shoots a 40 gr. Vmax at 3400 fps using 18.0 gr. of powder. My .204 takes 27.0 of powder to push a 40 gr. to 3700.
The point is for high volume 200 yd. shooting you can shoot a whole lot more with the .221 for the money and you aready know how accurate they can be.
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  #15  
Old 03-04-2008, 11:28 AM
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I just purchased 100 pcs. of new Winchester .223 brass. Using my Redding .221 size die I create 98 excellent pieces of .221 brass. I can live with 98% success as thats about what you get realistically from a 100 pc. box anyway. It helps to do it about halfway then go back and do the balance of the neck on the second time around.

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  #16  
Old 03-04-2008, 05:50 PM
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Originally Posted by skb2706 View Post
I just purchased 100 pcs. of new Winchester .223 brass. Using my Redding .221 size die I create 98 excellent pieces of .221 brass. I can live with 98% success as thats about what you get realistically from a 100 pc. box anyway. It helps to do it about halfway then go back and do the balance of the neck on the second time around...
In my experience making 8 Mauser from 30-06, I've also found sizing in increments to be helpful. I find that what collapses the case shoulder is excess lube. I set the lockring on the die to the proper length I want, and unscrew it from the press almost far enough to clear the long original case. Then, I size, withdraw and wipe excess lube, screw the die in 1 turn, and repeat until the die is screwed in down to the lockring. By keeping the lube wiped, I can get 100% yield.

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Old 03-05-2008, 02:02 PM
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I agree with that, gmd. That's why I only use Imperial Sizing Die Wax. It takes so little that there's virtually no accumulation to cause lube dents or collapse. They've even tested it to extreme by going from 30-06 to 22-250 in ONE pass! I've never done anything that extreme, but can testify that making 30 Herrett from 30-30, or 221 from 223 in one smooth pass is simple.
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  #18  
Old 03-07-2008, 05:19 PM
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stick with the rp brass and you want have to
turn or ream the necks.
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  #19  
Old 03-08-2008, 05:17 AM
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resizing brass

Wouldn't it be easier to just hack off a chunk of the 223 case and start from there? You could hack a chunk off to the approximate length, form and then trim it to final lenght. I've obviously never done this so forgive my ignorance if it can't be done this way.
Also, with all that working of the brass, would it then make sense to anneal it after you are done forming it, or isn't that necessary in a case this size?
Inquiring minds would like to know.
Thanks, Alan
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Old 03-09-2008, 06:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gyroboy01 View Post
Wouldn't it be easier to just hack off a chunk of the 223 case and start from there? You could hack a chunk off to the approximate length, form and then trim it to final length...
In general, this depends on the specific starting/ending calibers. For short changes, the existing neck makes a good guide thru the die. For long changes, you may well be correct.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gyroboy01 View Post
...with all that working of the brass, would it then make sense to anneal it after you are done forming it, or isn't that necessary in a case this size?
Yes, definitely, and Ranger335V gave good instructions on how to do it earlier in this thread.
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