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At times I am called a nitpicker and I do demand quality in my reloads. As component prices sky rocketed, I became more concerned with extending the life of my brass.

I decided to start neck sizing my bottle neck rifle brass. First I tried neck sizing dies from RCBS and Lyman. Both over worked the brass, sizing far smaller than necessary and the expander having to expand much more than necessary. Case necks were more prone to early cracking than when the standard sizing dies were used.

Then, I thought the best possible neck sizing system had arrived. The bushing type neck sizing die by Redding. I purchased these dies in 223 Rem., 30-06 and lately 308 Winchester.

My recent preparation of several different brands of 308 Win. brass taught me a new lesson. My goal with neck sizing has been to use the bushing that reduced the case neck to the diameter that provides the desired bullet retention without any actual expanding of the case neck. I use an expander that fits the sized case neck well without expanding it and bell only for my cast bullets. This keeps working of the case necks to the minimum and prolongs the life of the brass.

My lesson learned is related to something we have all known for a long time but I hadn’t figured on the dramatic differences. We know different manufactures brass can vary a little in neck thickness and uniformity. We also know the brass can vary in the amount of hardness. It is those differences that are causing me problems with my neck sizing goal.

I used the same bushing size and sized Winchester, FC, RP and BHA Match 308 brass, twenty rounds of each. The outside diameter of the different case necks varied after sizing due to the differences, more with the softer RP and the very soft FC brass. The real shock came when I used the .307” diameter expander. The hardest, Winchester brass, outside neck diameter increased only .002’ to .003” but the soft FC brass case necks increased outside diameter by .010”. Obviously, the inside diameters were doing the same thing.

The bottom line of this lesson for me is I will have to find the right size neck bushing for every brand or even different lots of brass if I am to size the case necks so I don’t have to expand them back out. I learned the differences in case neck hardness has the greatest adverse affect on consistent neck sizing. That variation is reflected in the amount of spring back resulting from sizing and/or expanding some a lot and some very little. The difference between the Winchester and FC brass is the best and worst example of the problem.

Since I load a lot of 30-06 and now the 308, I have to purchase four or five more neck bushings. It may be possible the savings I am trying to gain by extending case life is going to be chewed up with the cost of more bushings.

Maybe there is more than one lesson to be learned here?
 

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I use Lee collet dies for all my neck sizing for the last several years and am very happy with them. I use a Hornady neck sizing die for my 300 SAUM, as Lee does not make one, but I don't shoot the 300 SAUM often.

People either love 'em or hate 'em it seems...
 

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So, maybe you're bushing-wise and brass-poor? Or, is it the other way around? I never could keep that saying straight! :)

I, too, choose to neck-size, but not to extend brass life, per se. It has long been noted that brass fired from your gun tends to produce very good accuracy when fired a 2nd or 3rd time, in your gun. To that end, I only FL size cases when the case will not feed easily into the chamber it was just fired in. (This applies only to my bolt and single-shot actions.)

To answer your question, most directly: Yes, I think there is more than one lesson to be learned here. I think the lesson might be that you can easily spend so much time and money trying to extend the life of your brass that you wind up saving little and shooting less, and worse, enjoying it not at all! Brass is certainly a significant up-front cost of reloading, and if we're to realize any economic benefit (break even?) we must reload each case several times, but if you get even as few as 5 rounds from a given case, the cumulative cost of consumables will far out-weigh the cost of the brass. So, in analyzing TCOS (total cost of shooting), brass is not ALL that expensive.

Heck, even the 445 Super Mag brass I use for a new wildcat (not easy to find) only cost me ~$.45/round, which is less than the total cost of the primer/powder/bullet I'm shooting from them. Add in all the other various shooting equipment (hearing protection, spotting scope, chronograph) and the gas to/from the range and you're spending dollars to save pennies, even if you get 5 more firing from a single piece of brass than you might otherwise.

Still, I think it's cool that you're doing what you can to understand how it all works and become a better reloader...just don't take it TOO far! :)
 

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The Troll Whisperer (Moderator)
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Simple solution - anneal the case necks for longer life.
 

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I just know you good folk will think I'm crazy, but I still use the old Lee loaders for most reloading. No lubing, no messes, quick neck sizing. Usually do it watching TV or such. If the brass exhibits hard chambering, I FL size it to get back to specs. I can size 100 rounds before quick! I have some Hornady .223 brass on its 12 loading with no issues, but you can guarantee if one piece shows trouble I'll throw out the whole lot. It's paid for itself.

The annealing is simple and I actually learned how by reading posts right here on this forum. Youtube has some videos to show you how simple it actually is.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Another Solution

I person that I have been in contact with for a number of years indicated to me he has had the same problem. He went to the neck bushing neck sizing dies thinking as I did it would be the answer to his problems. He to realized the neck bushing die idea created a new problem. Due to the great variation in case necks, hardness and thickness, he needed a large number of bushings and extensive record keeping. He thought neck reaming or neck turning would solve the problem, but it didn't. It just created a need for more neck bushings.

He found the lee Collet type neck sizing dies to be the best answer for him. The die can be adjusted to provide the neck tension desired, no lube necessary and several uses even tended to even out the variation in case neck thickness. When the brass starts to chamber with some resistence, he uses one of the body dies to push the shoulder back a little without sizing the case neck.

This person shoots more calibers and more rifles in each caliber than I do. Brass life is an issue. Also, he is always after accuracy, and using the Lee Collet Die has provided better accuracy than all of his previous methods.

Believe me, this guy is ten times the tinkerer than I am and never gives up until he gets what he is looking for.

The Lee Collet die is worth giving it a try.
 

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Part of my new case prep is to turn the necks to cut off the high spots. I also have a tube Mik to see if the neck thickness is simular to other brass I have.
 

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Hi folks,
I have a question.
Apologies if it's a dumb question. I'm quite new to reloading.
I reload for my .204 Ruger and my .223 Rem.
I have the Hornady "Custom Grade" (Whatever that means) die set for both calibres.
Although I bought the .223 Neck Sizing die on it's on.
On reading the little sheet that came with the neck sizing die, it said to initially remove the
expander/de-primer spindle first. Then bit by bit lower the die until I could see it was sizing all the neck, but not going into the shoulder, which I did. But I then got to wondering why I needed the expander ball at all, as apposed to a universal de-priming die spindle/pin. Would this not be better for the brass as it is less worked?
If this is true, what purpose is there in having an expander ball at all? Especially when it's attached to my de-priming pin? Would it not be better to just have a de-priming pin in my neck die without the expander ball?
Thanks in advance
Jamie
 

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The Hog Whisperer (Administrator)
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The die will make the neck too small, most likely, to allow for tolerances in different brands of brass, etc.

Then the expander brings it back up where it should be fine.

Hope that makes sense.
 

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It certainly does. Thanks Mike.:)
One other question while i'm here.
I try to have as little as possible of the de-priming pin sticking out from the base of my neck die.
In my .204 Ruger it's less than 1/4", yet with my .223 Rem, the whole de-priming pin and around a 1/8" to a 1/4" of the expander have to stand out from the base of the die, or it will not de-prime.
I set the die up as it instructed me to. Is this normal?:confused:
I set it up by putting a brass cass in the shell holder, raising the ram all the way up. Then winding down the die, until it just touched the case of the mouth, then tightened up the locking ring. I then wound down the de-priming spindle bit by bit until it started popping out the spent primers, then tightened the spindle up. Should this much be showing? Does it vary calibre to calibre :confused:
Thanks
Jamie
 

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If you have the depriming pin adjusted down just enough to eject the spent primer, that is where you want it to be. It doesn't matter how much it's sticking out of the die to accomplish the task. Your sizing die, on the other hand, should only be adjusted down far enough to allow the sized case to chamber freely.
 

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I neck size all my brass after it has been through my rifles once. Even with the AR. Only time I FL size is new brass (or rarely when the brass gets tight)
 

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If you are really concerned about different thickness of neck and are really concerned about getting the best accuracy, why in the world are you not outside neck turning them all to begin with? For instance, let's say you decide you want to use a neck wall thickness of .015 inch. Turn all your brass, regardless of brand to .015 inch and do not buy any brass that is thinner than that. Then you use one S bushing for all your brass and never need to run a neck expander through your brass again. And all your necks will be uniform thickness all the way around and from the mouth to the shoulder. That will not only give you the least amount of sizing needed to hold the bullet but will also do the most for increasing your accuracy. Win-win and all it takes is a few minutes to turn the necks and it only needs to be done once. By the time it might need to be done again then it is time to retire the brass anyway because all that brass that has flowed into the necks, making them thicker, came from your head and more than likely you are getting thin there and ready to have a case head separation.
 

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You still wind up needing more than one bushing. If you outside turn enough brass off to give all cases the same neck thickness and to remove all neck wall thickness variation, you often have taken the brass down smaller than SAAMI minimum. This means it expands a larger number of thousandths in the chamber neck and has to be sized by a correspondingly narrower bushing. The extra work hardening that results can mean you need to go to narrower bushings as the brass gets more springy. You can address that by getting a special narrow neck chamber reamer made to chamber your barrels with, as benchresters often do, but that adds expense and the gun then not compatible with commercial loads. Annealing every load cycle is another possibility.

Another problem is that brass makers don't all use the same brass alloy, so both work hardening and annealed hardnesses are different. (See this article.) So, you still end up needing different bushings for different brass brands.

The Lee Collet Die sizes against a mandrel that sets the inside diameter for any neck wall thickness or hardness. It not only solves the problem, but because it applies pressure normal to the neck surface and uses no expander, it doesn't pull necks off axis with the body of the case, as this video demonstrates. I have, for awhile now, been making precision loads using a Redding Body Die to set shoulders back, followed by a Lee Collet Die to size just the neck, then trimming. It's two step sizing, but for load development work to find the accuracy potential of a rifle, or for long range slow fire loads, there aren't enough rounds involved to make that a special bother.
 

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I have seen a number of extensive test on this. Didnt seem to make much difference in brass life.

Generally, a lighter load makes brass last longer.

I quit using an expander ball some time ago. Now use an M type pistol expander for rifle too. Always disliked the feel of an expander ball being pulled through a case and lube in a neck didnt seem like a good idea. Had a progressive loader for 223 and found the M die made the process much smoother. Didnt see any difference in accuracy for what I was using the ammo for.

Reloading costs have really gone up. For rifle, a 9mm or 38 Special/357 Magnum really makes sense now. Cast bullets in cowboy style are the cheapest if you dont cast. Still some competition in prices.

Muzzleloading is also starting to look good. Dont need any brass and you cant really shoot very fast so it saves money.

Check out what the benchrest shooters do with their brass.
 

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It certainly does. Thanks Mike.:)
One other question while i'm here.
I try to have as little as possible of the de-priming pin sticking out from the base of my neck die.
In my .204 Ruger it's less than 1/4", yet with my .223 Rem, the whole de-priming pin and around a 1/8" to a 1/4" of the expander have to stand out from the base of the die, or it will not de-prime.
I set the die up as it instructed me to. Is this normal?:confused:
I set it up by putting a brass cass in the shell holder, raising the ram all the way up. Then winding down the die, until it just touched the case of the mouth, then tightened up the locking ring. I then wound down the de-priming spindle bit by bit until it started popping out the spent primers, then tightened the spindle up. Should this much be showing? Does it vary calibre to calibre :confused:
Thanks
Jamie
Jamie, I think that you should probably re-read those instructions. As you described your setup the case is not getting any sizing at all. Before you make any adjustments you should back your depriming rod way back out so as not to bottom it out against the case's web. After the deprimer/expander is backed out you can adjust that die down to where it sizes the neck when the ram is raised all the way up. Then you can adjust the deprimer/expander back down untill it just presses out the spent primer. I think what you missed is the "until it just touched the case of the mouth" part should be something like "until the sizing just touches the shoulder" or some such wording.
 

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Yes. Going down to where you just touch the case mouth is how you set up the crimp shoulder on a seating die, not a sizing die. For the sizing die, since this is unfamiliar turf for Jamie, I would suggest removing the decapper/expander altogether and adjust the die until the neck is being properly sized down, which you can tell by putting felt marker along the neck to see where the die rubs it. Then set the lock ring on the die down against the press or els mark the die body with a felt marker and put a matching registration mark on the press so you can find that same setting again. Then put the decapper expander in with the pin protruding as previously described, and keep feeding it fresh cases until you get the pin down just far enough to reliably decap, as Jason said. When that's all working, run the cases you sized without the expander in just far enough to go over the expander and back off of it again to set their ID.
 
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