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Reloading Tip — Start With Clean Brass

Starting the handloading process with clean brass allows the cases to be better inspected, and that enhances safety as well as the loads' performance.

Reloading Tip — Start With Clean Brass
Clean brass.

Like current TV ads that portray a competitor’s services as “just good enough” while the advertiser’s services are superior, safe handloads are much better than “just good enough.” Reloading is relatively simple to accomplish, but a properly planned and executed handloading process is required.

The process begins with assessing whether a fired case should be reloaded, and that requires careful observation and evaluation. Questions to ask include: Was the fired case difficult to extract from the gun’s chamber after it was fired? Is the primer in place? Is it pierced, cratered, or flattened? Is the case head partially or fully cracked above the rim? Is the neck split? Is the shoulder dented?

I’ve seen every one of those conditions too many times to count in nearly 50 years of reloading. If any answer is “yes,” then you must reevaluate your recipe and develop a corrective action plan.

Assuming no issues so far, next I tumble clean every case in corncob media before proceeding. If it’s new brass or from factory rounds fired in my gun, I sometimes just dump them in an old bath towel and briskly rub them for a minute or so. If they’re range pickups or dusty/dirty at all, I decap, wash, and dry the batch before tumbling.


Clean-vs-Dirty-Brass
Dirty brass.

Why Go to All that Trouble?

Well, the brass needs to be clean so you can carefully inspect it before it is resized. Plus, clean brass is easier to inspect for all those concerns I mentioned earlier. In addition, the sizer die is an expensive piece of precision tooling, and you will quickly damage it by forcing dirty lubed cases in and out—you may even get one stuck! You’ll also surely scratch or dent your expensive brass, and that can cause a case to split/rupture when it is fired.


After resizing, you must check the cases again to see if they are too long, i.e., the case has stretched too much and exceeds maximum case length. Or if you intend to crimp the case mouth onto the bullet shank, then they all must be the same length, within a couple thousandths of an inch. Why? If case length varies too much, you can’t apply a uniform crimp and/or you’ll buckle the case neck if it’s only a little too long.

I almost always clean and uniform the primer pockets before seating fresh primers, and I typically use an off-the-press priming tool simply because the leverage of a bench-mounted press is too great to allow me to “feel” the primer seat in the pocket. That’s important to ensure the pocket is tight enough to retain the primer properly. If you “feel” several loose pockets when priming a batch of cases, it’s smart and safe to trash the whole lot.

Implementing a case-inspection routine helps ensure that your handloads will be safe and reliable. You are responsible for your safety and your handloads’ performance, so act responsibly. A responsible handloader never reloads “just good enough” ammo if he or she has any regard for their personal safety or achieving satisfactory performance.

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