I finally got around to it - 223 to 221 Fireball (pic heavy) - Shooters Forum
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Old 02-01-2009, 01:39 PM
flashhole's Avatar
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I finally got around to it - 223 to 221 Fireball (pic heavy)

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The first photo shows most of the tools I used to re-form 223 Remington to 221 Fireball and do regular case prep. They are 1) Hornady FL Size Die 2) Redding Form & Trim Die 3) Hacksaw 4) Mitutoyo Anvil Micrometer 5) 1/4" washer 6) Redding Imperial Die Sizing Wax 7) EJS Primer Pocket Uniformer 8) 1/4" Nut Driver 9) RCBS Handle with 24 cal bore brush 10) RCBS Deburring Tool 11) Lee Lock Stud and Shell Holder 12) K&M Expandiron with .224 mandrel 13) Shell Holder 14) Lee Ball Handle Cutter w/221 Fireball Case Length Gauge 15) K&M Neck Turn Tool w/224 Carbide Cutter/Mandrel 16) K&M Handle and Case Holder w/Lee Auto Prime Shell Holder.

The Victim that is going to suffer all the abuse is the 223 Rem cartridge in the center of the photo.

Next photo shows the dies mounted in my Lee Classic Cast Turret Press. Note the die rings have been removed from both the Form & Trim Die and the K&M Expandiron. I could have used a lock ring for the Expandiron but opted not to. There is not enough length to the die to use the lock ring on the Form and Trim Die. The short Fireball case presents problems longer cases don't have.

The Victim is lubed and ready for the first pull of the press arm.

The next photo shows the case neck protruding up through the die. A 1/4" washer is placed over the neck to keep from scratching the turret during the rough cut. The K&M Expandiron has the screw removed that keeps you from damaging the case when you are too rough with the pull, the screw bottoms out on the head before you jamb the case into the die body. I opted not to use it, I pay attention to how much leverage I use with the press handle. Note the Form & Trim Die is adjusted down to contact the shell holder, the shoulder is still a little forward even with the die adjusted down all the way.

I pulled the long neck case out of the press to show a side by side comparison to what we started with. You can see the discoloration where the shoulder was pressed through the die. The top part of the neck is actually slightly smaller in diameter than the length of neck below it.

Back in the press and we have to rough cut the excess neck off the case. This light duty hacksaw is for tight places when you can't get a standard hacksaw to fit. I use it from the butt end and lay the blade flat on the protective washer.

Next is the first trim to length with the Lee set up. I have it chucked up in a cordless drill ... easier on the hands ... as is the ball handle cutter.

No duplicate photo but it next goes back in the press, sized with the Hornady FL Size Die and trimmed again with the Lee set up. The case will grow in length after the FL resizing and must have the excess trimmed. Then it must be run through the K&M Expandiron to open the case neck to the proper diameter so the mandrel will slip inside during the neck turning process.

Next photo shows the outside diameter measurement of a case that was fired in my gun, 0.254" and the neck wall thickness of the FL sized case, 0.016".

These measurements are needed to determine how much neck thickness should be trimmed. I calculated a neck thickness of .014" will give me .002" inside the chamber of my gun. I set up the K&M Neck Turn Tool to the appropriate thickness and turned the neck. Adjusting the neck turn thickness is as much a trial and error process as anything else. You can use a feeler gauge if you have one to get a close setting. The K&M tool is easy to use and the insturctions are easy to understand. I bought the carbide mandrel with cutting blades so it will also cut the inside of the neck at the same time it cuts the outside of the neck. Here is a photo showing the turning process step. Note the neck didn't get turned its full length, it was slightly smaller diameter at the top, dull area, as opposed to shinny area where the cut was made.

The 223 case wall gets thicker as you get closer to the base. This works to my advantage as I choose to turn the neck length to just kiss the shoulder with the cutting blade. The blade has a slight taper on it. The taper angle of the blade doesn't exactly match the angle of the shoulder but it is very close. I was concerned that a cut on the shoulder would weaken the case. I disceted a few and found that I have shoulder wall thickness that exceeds the neck wall thickness. Here is a photo of a disceted case.

After the neck-turn, its back in the press and sized with the FL sizer one last time. This provides the proper neck tension to hold the bullet and I've noticed it will also smooth out the step/cut mark on the shoulder to some degree. I polished it up. You can see it has a neck wall thickness of 0.014" and is indistingushable from a factory case. The loaded case is one that has been fire-formed. I put it in for illustration along with the 223 case.

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Last edited by flashhole; 02-01-2009 at 04:25 PM.
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Old 02-01-2009, 04:41 PM
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Wow, that is some serious tool-work.

Flashhole, I have to ask: are you creating a wildcat cartridge or just re-making .223 into .221 because there isn;t any .221 brass available?

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Old 02-01-2009, 06:31 PM
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I bought my Fireball two years ago this coming spring. At the time, I couldn't find any brass and had to buy factory ammo just to get brass to reload and I bought the only 3 boxes (20 rounds each) of ammo Gander Mountain had on the shelf. Pretty pricey stuff for being a dinky little cartridge. I'm still using that brass, at least most of it, and then last summer I bought an additional bag of 100 brass that I haven't even opened (saving for a rainy day event). I've seen two brass cycles come and go where the retailers get bought out pretty quick.

223 brass is always available as range pick up so I figured I'd tool up to re-form 223 to 221. I wasn't in a rush and it took me about a year to get all the eqipment I needed. I picked up the neck turn tool, the Expandiron, and the anvil micrometer over Christmas. Making 221 from 223 guarantees I will never have a supply problem. Besides, it gives me something to do other than sitting in front of the boob toob in the winter. I just finished a lot of 100 re-forms.

I really like my gun, it's a Rem 700 LVSF that I re-stocked. It's quite accurate and pretty cheap to shoot. I figure it will take a few years to shoot out the factory barrel and about the time I retire I will upgrade it with a custom barrel.
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Old 02-01-2009, 06:59 PM
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whats your loss rate? This seems like quite a bit of forming for a relatively weak case...

I saw some of this brass locally for nearly $50/100, 223 brass is $24/100 locally - once fired Lake City brass is $77/1000 from GI Brass....
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Old 02-02-2009, 12:57 AM
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That is pretty similar to what I do to make 300 Whisper brass. It is essentially a 221 Fireball necked up to .308 cal. I have been picking up 223 brass from work and getting it from friends. I sorted out a few hundred pieces of the same headstamp to convert. I've only got about 150 formed so far, thanks to the amount of time that it takes.
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Old 02-02-2009, 02:30 AM
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Originally Posted by mattsbox99 View Post
whats your loss rate? This seems like quite a bit of forming for a relatively weak case...
The first batch of 50 I lost 3, the second batch of 50 I lost 1. I sacrificed about 10 just figuring out what to do and cutting them apart so I felt comfortable with the process. Actually the case is quite robust and the main reason I went with the Fireball over some of the other small capacity cartridges.
Remember - always have your democrats neutered or spayed - Ann Coulter
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