May 29, 2020
By Lane Pearce
The first step in reloading, prepping firedbrass, is probably the most time-consuming part of the process. I don’t cut corners—whether my handloads are for a special hunt or friendly competition at the range. Any device that can improve efficiency and contribute to better-performing ammunition is welcome on my bench.
When I started reloading many years ago, I used RCBS dies to handload .270 Winchester ammo and a Lyman die set with a carbide sizer for .357 Magnum reloads. I soon learned it was absolutely necessary to trim, both when the case length grew too long after firing and resizing several times. Rifle rounds won’t chamber properly when the case neck is jammed into the throat, and you can’t uniformly crimp the handgun case mouth onto the bullet properly if each piece of brass isn’t uniformly trimmed to the same length. So I added a couple of trim dies to my reloading equipment inventory to perform the required step.
Today’s handloaders may never have seen or even heard of a trim die. As the name implies, it’s a uniquely machined part that is screwed into the press until it bumps the shellholder. First, insert a case into the shellholder, then raise the ram and file off the excess ring of brass that protrudes from the top of the die. The top surface of the trim die was hardened to withstand the wear of the filing. You had to lube the case so it didn’t seize in the die. Then you had to chamfer and deburr the case mouths.
Case prep has come a long way since then. For a while, I used a Lyman lathe-style case trimmer with interchangeable collets and caliber-specific pilots. There’s no telling how many cases I trimmed with that much more efficient, but still manually operated, tool. Now we have several even better tools available from the reloading equipment manufacturers that make case trimming easier to accomplish.
Lyman Case Trim Express
Lyman recently introduced the Case Trim Express that is specifically designed to quickly and precisely trim bottleneck rifle cases. It’s powered by an AC adaptor/cord and comes with 10 different bushings in a storage kit that allows you to trim more than 50 popular cartridges. There are 15 additional bushings available if you reload for not-so-popular rounds like the .17 Hornet, 28 Nosler, .30-40 Krag, 7.62x54R, .338 RCM, or .416 Rigby.
The new Lyman tool comes with a detailed illustrated user’s guide that clearly shows how to first install and secure the appropriate bushing and compression spring with the bushing cap. Then, with the chip guard in place, you carefully adjust the cutting depth in 0.001-inch increments. Once it’s set up, the variable speed carbide cutter will trim as many cases as you care to insert into the bushing and press into the cutter. Although you can secure the trimmer on your bench, it’s small and handy enough to move into and away from your workspace.
RCBS Brass Boss
After trimming, the new RCBS Brass Boss case-prep center is a great choice to continue processing your cases. Again, as a novice reloader, I used several simple hand tools to manually deburr/chamfer cases, clean primer pockets, brush powder residue from the case necks, and even internally recut flash holes. I also suffered through cutting away the crimp around the primer pocket with a sharp knife before priming military brass.
The Brass Boss integrates every one of those steps into a variable-speed, powered unit with six rotating and two fixed stations. The kit includes 12 interchangeable attachments to perform all the steps I noted. No more pocketknives needed to remove military crimps! Two rotating points are geared to turn faster than the other four so the inside and outside deburring tools can function best.
Detailed product instructions are included (in five languages no less). As recommended, I read the booklet and was reminded of the important safety cautions associated with reloading in general and using the Brass Boss specifically. One warning about avoiding an electrical shock was somewhat over-the-top: “Do not use while bathing.”
Redding Universal Decapping Kit
I recently prepared a column about reloading with premium components. Specifically, I compared the performance of four samples of Berger rifle ammunition to handloads assembled with VihtaVuori propellants and Berger bullets in Lapua brass. They all performed quite well, and I’m happy to say the accuracy of my handloads surpassed the performance of the factory loads almost every time.
However, reloading the Lapua 6mm and 6.5mm Creedmoor brass after firing the factory ammo required a special case-prep step. These two, and several other Lapua cartridge cases, employ small-diameter (0.060-inch) flash holes instead of the larger (0.080-inch) ones typically found in most domestic brass. I’ve used Lee’s universal decapping die to de-prime thousands of pieces of military brass, but until now I didn’t know anyone made a similar tool with a small decapping pin. Fortunately, Redding does.
Redding’s kit includes a small decapping die for .22-caliber and larger cases up to 2.5 inches long and a large decapping die for .28-caliber and larger cases up to 3 inches. There’s also a replacement rod for the smaller die to handle .17- and .20-caliber cases. Each decapping pin measures 0.57 inch. Each die simply screws into your press until it touches the shellholder. Now I can easily punch out any primer—except “live” ones, of course!
Don’t you just love progress?