Hey Firearm Owner - Join the discussion!
First I wanted to thank everyone for all the advice given about a year ago when I first got into reloading. I have been doing it now for around a year for my 9mm and have had a lot of fun and good success with it.
Now I wanted to try my hand at .223, but this is a whole new beast, so I figured I would turn to the good people in here once more and see what other equipment is recommended. Right now I have a 4 hole turret press by Lee with the auto-prime and pro auto disk powder measure, a tumbler, case lube/pad, scale, calipers, bullet puller, reloading manuals, etc. I also have a Lee primer pocket reamer for those military brass casing with the crimp.
From what I can tell I will need to get: a set of new dies, case trimmer, deburring/chamfer tool. Any recommendations on the above? Or if I forgot anything that helps, please let me know too. Right now I don't think I want to drop the $$ on an electric trimmer just yet, but I've seen some nice hand cranked lathe kinds out there, just not sure what people's experiences are with the various ones, so any recommendations would be greatly appreciated.
As far as the powder, does anyone else use the Lee setup? Can you still do the powder through die with the rifle dies? If so, should I invest in the adjustable powder measure or go with the double stack set?
Thank you all for your time and help in the past/present/future!
Hi ShadowByte - I just started reloading .223 about a month ago on my Lee classic turret, with pretty good sucess. I'll try to cover as much as I can - but keep asking questions if I leave anything out.
Brass - I've been reloading mostly Lake City, Federal, and Remington brass, all of which has only been shot out my gun. This allows me to size just the neck, as the cases are fire formed to my chamber. Range pickup brass should be full length sized to ensure proper fit in your chamber the next time they are loaded.
Primer pockets - you said you have the Lee reamer. Do you mean the primer pocket cleaner, or do you mean the chamfer tool? Pick up the chamfer tool for taking care of the crimped primer pockets. Chuck it in a drill and give it a quick pulse (1-2 revolutions) in the primer pocket, crimp gone. I haven't used one, but RCBS makes a primer pocket swage die that can be had for about $30, and Dillon has a $100 standalone swager.
Case length - after being fired once, and even twice now, my cases have needed barely any trimming - mostly no trimming at all, YMMV. When I do need to trim, I just use the hand held lee trimmer system, round wooden ball handle, put the case in a shell holder made to fit in a drill. About 5 seconds per case total.
Dies - stick with lee. Get the .223 Deluxe Rifle Die set (full length sizing, collet neck sizing, seating die), and in addition pick up the .223 lee factory crimp die and a rifle charging die (this will be used instead of the powder through expanding die like on your 9mm setup). You may also want to get another 4-hole turret and a powder die riser to keep your powder measure above the press handle.
Powder/measure - I noticed that stick powders such as Varget and H4895 didn't meter well through my pro auto disk powder measure. These powders produced the best load for me under a 75gr hornady match BTHP (OTM). I ended up getting a Lee perfect powder measure (drum style) to charge each case individually when leading these match rounds. I use H335 under 62gr projectiles in my pro auto disk measure, and it meters just fine.
Get several types of bullets, and several types of powders. Take a look at all the different published recipes - pick powders that have published data for as many of the bullets you choose and that will maximize the number of combinations you can try. I found that even .2gr difference in charge weight could cause the spread to go from 1" to 4"+, so start low and build up in very small increments until you hit a sweet spot. I went through H-Varget, H4895, H335 in combination with 55 & 62gr FMJ (goldenwestbrass.com) and 68 & 75gr Hornady match BTHP - making about 3-4 charge weights for each bullet/powder combination.
Hope this helps get you started, but should not be considered the end-all-be-all for reloading .223
Thank you for the awesome post, that gave me a lot to go on, I really appreciate that.
You are right on this, I was thinking the cleaner, I will pickup one of the chamfer/deburring tools they have that also does the primer pocket.
With being 5 total dies, do you put the two sizing dies on one turret and then the charging/seating and crimping on another? I have the riser now from the 9mm setup, definitely a must if you are using the powder through die method.
Great advice, its nice to hear this from someone who uses a similar setup. I will definitely keep this in mind. I will probably pickup the Lee Perfect Powder Measure at some point as well. I think for the moment I am going with H335 (I have had several people recommend this as well as reading various boards), so it is nice to know that meters well through the pro auto disk measure.
Good tips as well and much appreciated!
Thank you again for all the info and for sharing your experiences.
First, familiarize yourself with 223 and 556 they are not exactly interchangeable.
Skip the trimmer for now. You'll probably get 2-4 loadings before you need to trim. Measure your cases and when they need trimming, toss them into a box for later trimming.
I've got a RCBS trim pro, and started with a manual unit, and later upgraded to powered.
I'm a Dillon user... I find with the volume calibers I shoot, the single loading process is just too time consuming for my liking. My low volume work-up loads are done on a forester co-ax. If volume is needed I take the recipe I've worked up and move it to the dillon.
For my 5.56 loading I like the ball powder for the general use range ammo. Ramshot Tac, H332, H335 have been my most commonly used powders. I'm mostly loading 55/62 to duplicate the common military loading. I'm not working in a bolt gun, and am not striving for maximum accuracy.
You'll need a die set with at a minimum a full-length sizer, and seater+crimper. I prefer to seat and crimp in separate steps, and VERY much like lees factory crimp die.
If you are re-using military brass with crimped primers you'll need some plan for removing the crimps. If you are using commercial brass then no problems. Also don't mix .223 head stamps with 5.56. They are different thickness, and will change the pressure levels of the ammo.
It's only 4, you lube your cases and use the full-length sizing die if reloading unkown or someone else's brass to be fired from your gun, or, you use the collet neck-sizing die (no lube needed) for brass that has definitely come from your gun. Still just size-charge-seat-crimp if necessary like with pistol.
jdonovan - what kind of production levels do you get out of your Dillon progressive? I can easily do 100 rounds in about 12-15 minutes on my turret press when going for volume loads vs. match loads when I hand meter and measure everything.
100/12 min.. one round every 7 seconds seems a bit fast ... ok never mind, I just looked at current auto-index turrets, and they have got to speed things up a huge amount. Also the addition of the auto-primer feed on many turret presses really brings the production level close to manually indexed progressives.
On the 550 I can run about 600 per hour including all the support tasks, like loading primers into tubes, lubing cases for sizing, reloading powder etc...
My 1050 runs MUCH faster. Probably closer to 2000/hour but there is no way I can sustain that rate without a second person supporting. My rate probably drops to 1200-1400 if I'm doing it all.
I've got 3 presses....
co-ax for LRIP (low rate initial production) Prototyping, load workup, or for calibers like .458 lott, that I JUST don't want to shoot a lot of, or the match ammo where I'm hand seating, and weighing all charges.
dillon 550 good mid volume production, or for things that I don't want to pay to setup for the 1050 to run... Like my rifle hunting ammo, the BIG bore hand guns, 460/500 etc...
dillon 1050 - for all my high volume uses, 9mm/5.56/308
If you're going to be doing a lot of reloading with military brass, you will hate yourself if you try it by hand. I have the RCBS Primer Pocket Swager, but it needs to be run on a single-stage press according to RCBS. I'm getting the crimp remover bit that RCBS has for their case prep system and chucking it in a drill. After 100 rounds by hand, everything cramps up.
Right now, I have almost 3000 empties waiting for me to finish prepping them. I'm going to pull the Remington brass out first and use them until I get the bit.
I have the Lee turret press along with a Lyman single-stage press. The Lee turret press and auto powder measure requires an adapter for use with rifle rounds.
I've mostly done it by credit card ... http://www.custombrassprocessing.com/
I agree that Dillons are beautiful machines that can crank out quality ammo, I've been drooling over some youtube videos of a 650. However, for the amount of money I'd need to drop on one with all of the accessories, dies, and conversion kits I'd need/want, I could load many thousands of rounds of ammo on my turret... hard for me to justify right now, so I spent a couple hundred on the turret and a ton of accessories.
I can reload 100 primers in about 10 seconds, no tubes to fill!
But... I have to pull the handle 4 times for each round produced.
What is this adapter you speak of? I reload .223 Rem and .243 Win - I have the rifle charging die with a riser on top - and that's hardly even needed (much more so with the pistol powder through expander dies) - no adapter that I know of.
I started loading .223 for a M700 varmint rifle back in 1981. I've always used a single stage press. A few years back I got my first AR15.
I do the brass in stages. I run it through the brass cleaner (a cheap vibratory polisher/cleaner) that I've put thousands of pieces of brass through in the last few years (every now and then one of the wires will break and I just take it apart reattach the wire and fire it back up) - Frankford Arsenal is the name on it.
Then I lube/resize it. I use an RCBS primer pocket swager to remove the crimp on military brass (if it has a crimp on the primer pocket). I run the brass through the polisher again to remove the lube. I take it out of the walnut shell media and remove any pieces from the inside and the primer flash hole and store it in ziploc bags or plastic containers.
I prime it by the hundreds (doesn't take long to 200 to 400 pieces) with a Lee hand priming tool and if I'm not reloading it right then I put it back in the plastic storage containers.
The H335 does meter very well through my RCBS powder measure (my son uses it for his .223 reloads) but I like IMR 4198 (doesn't meter as well but good enough to hit what I want to hit).
So far (for the AR15's) I use mostly pulled surplus 55 and 62 grain bullets.
I used to use Pacific (Hornady) dies and also Lee dies. A couple of years ago I built an AR15 that has a very tight chamber resulting in multiple failures to chamber my reloads in that one rifle. I dug out the new RCBS X dies my wife had bought me for Christmas and the brass resized in those dies works great in the tight chambered AR15.
I'm not a 500 rounds a range trip kind of shooter so my way of reloading works fine for me. If I want to shoot a bunch of rounds at 25 yds. I just put the .22 conversion kit in it and bang away.
I don't mind the time spent reloading. By doing my brass in stages like I described I've been able (once I decide to put primers, powder and bullets in the brass) to load up to 600 rounds in a day.
Good call, I will make sure to keep the .223 and 5.56 stored apart from one another. Right now I mainly have .223, but I am hoping to buy either new or once fired LC brass shortly. If I do, I am going to get the pre-prepped ones so I can avoid the primer pocket crimp for now. I have about 600 IMI brass I will have to do down the road, since right now it is still factory loaded, but 1k of LC should keep me occupied for a while.
Sheeh, I thought I was doing good when I crank that out in about 45 minutes . I am super paranoid though and double check every powder fill by eye and then weigh every 20th round pre-post powder fill to make sure the thing is metering properly as and do a OAL check then too. I don't exactly have the best spot right now for reloading, so hopefully once I get a nice dedicated bench setup in an efficient manner, it'll go faster.
Out of curiosity, what is the average reloading life of military brass?
Thank you everyone who has contributed their experiences to this thread so far, I really appreciate it! I have gleaned some really good tips/experiences and methods.
Somewhere about 3-4 reloading you'll need to trim, 2nd trim generally comes sooner, 2-3 loads. When it needs its 3rd trim I generally discard it. So about 7. Some will not last as long, some go longer, but its a good approximate.
It will also vary if you are using a small base sizing die, then even fewer. Neck sizing only for a bolt gun... perhaps 50% more loads.
Oh and by 'discard' I mean into the scrap brass bucket. That stuff is worth a few bucks a lb. at the scrap yard... it adds up fast.
SByte - Slow and careful is never bad, once I get into a rhythm though, I can crank them out.
jdonovan - why do you say neck sizing only for a bolt gun? Would you not neck size only for an AR?
Generally the feeding tolerances on a self-loader cause non-full length sizes cases to not feed as reliably. How reliably will they or won't they feed? You have to experiment to know. For a range toy, or practice ammo, it might be OK to have a miss-feed on 1 in 50.
Interesting. I'll have to keep track of this more closely. I've got 1200+ rounds (300+ were my reloads, remaining is factory ammo) through my AR with only 3 misfeeds and they were all from my handloads.
ShadowByte - take note of this as well since I recommended the neck-sizing only option to you....
Neck sizing is also a less-great idea when the ammo is going to be used in other than the gun that shot the original case.
Now that I knew - just not that it might have an impact on feeding reliability, even in the gun which the ammo was originally fired.
Definitely keeping track of all of this advice, thank you everyone.
Now a question for those of you who live near Hampton Roads/Newport News, can you recommend any shops down there for reloading supplies, specifically Hodgdon H335 and CCI primers?
I have to go that way in a few weeks for training and sine there is a severe lack of places within 100 miles of here, I thought I would take advantage of this opportunity when visiting civilization That $27.50 hazmat fee + S&H is outright painful and I don't know too many people here that reload at the moment, so its hard to get a group buy together...
In general I'm getting the haz-mat supplies from the gun shows. Or once I've got a load worked up I like, and know I'm going to use a bunch of power, then I'll buy 2-3 8lb kegs.... at that point the haz-mat isn't too much of a per pound cost.
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