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Thread: Brass Prep and progressive presses

  1. #1
    Boolit Buddy Captain*Kirk's Avatar
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    Brass Prep and progressive presses

    I currently am loading using my tried and true RCBS Rock Chucker single stage press. I've watched a whole bunch of videos on other presses available, including turret and progressive presses but not sure if I'm ready to take the leap forward.
    First of all, I'm meticulous with my brass prep. Almost ADD, actually. My cases get tumbled, de-primed and sized, have the primer pockets cleaned and primer holes checked and de-burred, case length checked and trimmed if necessary, and case mouths chamfered and de-burred long before the brass ever hits the loading sequence. My used brass looks like factory new brass when I start reloading, bagged and tagged just like new brass. So, I know I could never do like the guys in the videos claiming 3-500 rounds an hour who are shoveling buckets full of dirty brass fresh off the range into the decapping die on a progressive or turret press, without a mental makeover. It goes against my nature...
    I'm also pretty A/R when it comes to charging cases...rifle cases especially...with regard to checking and double checking load weight, and viewing the charged cases for uniformity before bullet seating. And yet I watch these guys cranking round after round off their Dillon or RCBS Pro 7 progressives with barely a glance at the actual process. (too much information happening at once to be able to watch everything)
    I realize this (progressive method) is probably identical to the method used at the ammo factories, ammo I would shoot without a second thought. So, am I going too far in my meticulousness (is that even a word?) and do I need to chill out, upgrade to a faster, more efficient press, and quit wasting time on mundane tasks that may or may not actually be buying anything? Or keep on keepin' on, slow and steady, but confident in my finished product that looks and chambers like factory-new ammo?
    Not that I shoot thousands of rounds a year...most shooting sessions only have me firing off a couple hundred rounds max, and I can easily load that single stage in an hour or so.
    What do you guys do, and are you confident in the finished product? Have you encountered any issues when really cranking out ammo?
    Last edited by Captain*Kirk; 02-07-2020 at 09:34 AM.
    "Are you gonna pull those pistols, or whistle Dixie?"

  2. #2
    Boolit Master
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    I am the same as you with rifle brass. It gets fully prepped before hitting the Dillon. I haven't really seen anyone shoving dirty brass onto a press, but to each their own. I check powder weight every 20 rounds or so for the first 100, then top off the powder and check maybe every 50 rounds. It has never been off. Not saying it cant happen, but they are reliable machines for sure.

    When I first started loading for bottlenecked cartridges, I did everything on a single stage. Took forever to load 100 rounds. Bought the conversion for the 550B and never looked back.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master jmorris's Avatar
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    My cases get tumbled, de-primed and sized, have the primer pockets cleaned and primer holes checked and de-burred, case length checked and trimmed if necessary, and case mouths chamfered and de-burred long before the brass ever hits the loading sequence. My used brass looks like factory new brass when I start reloading, bagged and tagged just like new brass.
    FWIW factory brass is created by the thousands per hour and most will never be touched by a human hand until you open the box and pull them out.

    For rifle, even with a progressive, it’s a two pass process. I don’t run dirty brass in a machine so the first step is to clean them. Then I can size, deprime and trim. The trimmer is in the tool head, if the case needs to be trimmed, it is, if it doesn’t, it’s not, fast and simple. After that they can be tumbled again to knock off case lube, if you use stainless pins wet, they will look like new cases, inside and out.

    Then onto the load pass, also worth noting that manufacturers do not use weighed charges, rather volume charges, same as I do on almost all my progressive loading.

    I also like to use powder check dies, they can be set up quite sensitive and even with identical charge weights, detect internal volume differences between different cases.


  4. #4
    Boolit Buddy
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    I do my prep work on my 650 (tumbled with SS pins first). On 650 with one pull of the lever I deprime, size and trim (Dillon trimmer). After that brass goes for primer clean, uniform and mouth chamfer on Lyman prep station. Finally tumble to remove lube and polish.


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  5. #5
    Boolit Buddy Captain*Kirk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sigep1764 View Post
    I haven't really seen anyone shoving dirty brass onto a press, but to each their own.
    I watched a YouTube'r doing it just last night, after bragging how he was doing 300 rounds an hour. Not only was the brass dirty, but he never even looked at the primer pockets before stuffing a new primer in on his Lee progressive press...round after round. I have the RCBS brass prep center and run each case through the whole sequence; clean/uniform the primer pocket, uniform the pocket size, de-burr the flash hole (if not previously done; even with new brass) brush the inside of the case, then de-burr the case mouth after length check and trim if required. Yes, it's a lot of somewhat boring, mindless work, but brass is the most expensive reloading component, and the only re-usable one so I take it seriously. Never have I had a reloaded round fail to cycle or feed so I must be doing something right. Just wondering how much a turret press or progressive would speed up the loading operations notwithstanding the brass prep, or if it's not worth the extra money just to seat and crimp bullets?
    BTW, I drop my pistol charges straight from the hopper and check accuracy every 20-50 rounds. With rifle rounds I weigh each and every charge, especially with 7mm mag full-house loads. One or two grains over could really mess your day up. No way I would feel comfortable dropping those charges from a progressive or turret press without checking them.
    "Are you gonna pull those pistols, or whistle Dixie?"

  6. #6
    Boolit Master jmorris's Avatar
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    And yet I watch these guys cranking round after round off their Dillon or RCBS Pro 7 progressives with barely a glance at the actual process. (too much information happening at once to be able to watch everything)
    With some of them I don’t even sit there and watch.



    Even without automation collated bullet and brass feed on a progressive with a powder check, makes it so your attention doesn’t have to be on “everything”. Makes loading 100 rounds in under 4 minutes less work than loading 100 rounds in 10 minutes on one I have to manually feed cases and bullets.

    I do roll size first and case gauge after loading, every round I shoot in competition but yes I have more confidence in them than factory ammunition. I have won lots of matches with ammunition loaded on progressive presses.

  7. #7
    Boolit Buddy
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    I reload my hunting or special loads about like you do with meticulous brass prep. Some is all done on the single stage press but some like my .44 hunting loads will get sized and deprimed on the progress as its a whole lot faster to size a couple hundred rounds with a progressive press then the rest of the loading on a single stage. For general pistol target ammo I have no problem dry tumbling the cases then loading in one shot on the progressive. When I first started out with the progressive I was worried about the powder charge weight being consistent, well after measuring a few 1000 charge weights in the 10 or so calibers I load on the progressive I have come to figure out that the progressive powder measure is very accurate. I would maybe do more loading on the progressive press but after cranking out a few 1000 rounds in a few hours I find it enjoyable to take my time and load up 100 rounds for one of my hunting rifles.

    Probably another reason that I don't run everything progressive is for most of my low volume calibers I keep up on brass prep so there is usually never more then 100 or so pieces of brass needing prepped at any one time and I always have at least a couple hundred cases that just need primer, powder and bullet. The calibers I due use the progressive on are ones that I can blow through a few 100 round out of in one range trip.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master jmorris's Avatar
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    Not only was the brass dirty, but he never even looked at the primer pockets before stuffing a new primer in on his Lee progressive press...round after round. I have the RCBS brass prep center and run each case through the whole sequence; clean/uniform the primer pocket, uniform the pocket size, de-burr the flash hole (if not previously done; even with new brass) brush the inside of the case, then de-burr the case mouth after length check and trim if required.
    It’s not for everyone or for me even everything.

    I don’t inspect every primer pocket but do have devices that do.



    That said, I don’t load for my benchrest rifles on a progressive but “factory” brass won’t even fit in them, I also don’t tumble them, heck, after I spend all the time to get them ready for the rifle, they don’t even ever touch another case, for the rest of their life.

    If it’s not for you don’t waste the money. That said I have placed first at a National championship with ammo loaded on a progressive but never placed that high with the ones I have put my heard and soul into, hand crafting than then slowly loading on a single stage...

  9. #9
    Boolit Master


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    Ok. Have to admit I am a bit impressed with what you have done jmorris. Very nice.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master jmorris's Avatar
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    So, am I going too far in my meticulousness (is that even a word?) and do I need to chill out, upgrade to a faster, more efficient press, and quit wasting time on mundane tasks that may or may not actually be buying anything?
    That’s the question or questions.

    What are you loading for?

    What are the components you are using?

    What are your expectations in time spent and accuracy?

    What are your current results?
    Last edited by jmorris; 02-07-2020 at 10:56 AM.

  11. #11
    Boolit Buddy Captain*Kirk's Avatar
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    That’s the question or questions.

    What are you loading for?

    .380ACP, 7mmRM, .45/70 Gov't, .44RM, .44-40 (smokeless), .35 Remington

    What are the components you are using?

    Pretty wide variance. From cast bullets, to SJFP, to SPBT, and plated bullets. Powders, same. Unique, RE22, 4320 and others. Brass; factory stuff or Starline. Primers, CCI, Remington, Winchester

    What are your expectations in time spent and accuracy?

    I will generally try to reload what I've shot in the past month...usually 50-200 rounds but generally not more than that.Range fodder I'm not concerned with accuracy as much as function. Rifle/hunting ammo, yeah.

    What are your current results?

    Some loads are very, very good (7mm) Others...meh. Worst load ever was a .45-70 using Speer 400gr SJSP bullets. I ended up pulling all the bullets and starting over.
    "Are you gonna pull those pistols, or whistle Dixie?"

  12. #12
    Boolit Buddy Captain*Kirk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmorris View Post
    ....if you use stainless pins wet, they will look like new cases, inside and out.
    Tell me more.
    "Are you gonna pull those pistols, or whistle Dixie?"

  13. #13
    Boolit Buddy

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    Don't sweat some of the small stuff.
    Brass doesn't need to be shiny. Clean is nice. When I started loading I didn't have a brass tumbler, still made good ammo.
    Primer pocket cleaning, I did that a long time ago. Never saw any differences in my reloads after I stopped cleaning primer pockets.
    I have 5 progressive presses and they all make good ammo.
    How many rounds will you shoot a week? A month? How much time can you devote to reloading?
    Back when I was shooting IPSC I was shooting 300 - 500 a week with one handgun. Now days I'll go to a Glock match with 600 - 800 rounds for one weekend. All match rounds get chamber checked or case gauged. Sometimes this happens the morning of the match.

    It all depends what you are reloading for.
    A rifle match? Handgun bullseye? Action steel match? Plinking in the back forty on the weekend?

    Everyone has their own process for their needs and wants.




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  14. #14
    Boolit Master Burnt Fingers's Avatar
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    With pistol brass...mainly 9mm and .45 ACP, I just tumble it then dump it in a bucket. When needed I take it from the bucket and dump it into the collator.

    That's it. I sort the crimped 9mm and small primer .45 ACP on the press.
    NRA Benefactor.

  15. #15
    Boolit Buddy Captain*Kirk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Burnt Fingers View Post
    With pistol brass...mainly 9mm and .45 ACP, I just tumble it then dump it in a bucket. When needed I take it from the bucket and dump it into the collator.

    That's it. I sort the crimped 9mm and small primer .45 ACP on the press.
    Which press?
    "Are you gonna pull those pistols, or whistle Dixie?"

  16. #16
    Boolit Master
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    The old saw comes to mind: "Good, fast or cheap; kindly pick two."

    Single stage processing and loading allows meticulous attention to detail. With equal attention to components and technique, I believe the finest ammunition can be crafted, though it takes time.

    Auto indexing multistage presses produce ammunition in quantity. With good components, technique, and some sacrifice in the speed of operation, very high quality ammo can be produced, though I don't think quite as high as what a bench rest shooter can get crafting one round at a time.

    I need the volume. I'll take speed of operation at some small sacrifice (for me, given how I use the ammo) in quality (though not in safety) as a matter of necessity.

  17. #17
    Boolit Buddy Captain*Kirk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kevin c View Post
    The old saw comes to mind: "Good, fast or cheap; kindly pick two."

    Single stage processing and loading allows meticulous attention to detail. With equal attention to components and technique, I believe the finest ammunition can be crafted, though it takes time.

    Auto indexing multistage presses produce ammunition in quantity. With good components, technique, and some sacrifice in the speed of operation, very high quality ammo can be produced, though I don't think quite as high as what a bench rest shooter can get crafting one round at a time.

    I need the volume. I'll take speed of operation at some small sacrifice (for me, given how I use the ammo) in quality (though not in safety) as a matter of necessity.
    Well, truth be told, I don't shoot near as much in person as I do in my mind, so it's not the quantity I'm lacking. I've always got enough reloaded in each caliber to go shooting. It's the amount of time I spend getting the quality of ammo I want. I'm not willing to sacrifice quality for quantity, and don't need to. But if I can reload 100 rounds in ten minutes as opposed to an hour and still come out shiny I'd be a happy camper. I enjoy reloading, but it's not my favorite pastime. There are other things I would prefer to do.
    "Are you gonna pull those pistols, or whistle Dixie?"

  18. #18
    Boolit Master

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    I do rifle stuff about like you do. I'll wash them in soap & water, dry, size & de-prime.
    Then do all the prep: flash hole, primer pocket, trim, etc. After that, dry tumble/polished.

    Rifle stuff gets loaded on a single stage LNL. It they get IMR powder, its weighed for each charge, ball powder- every 5th or so.
    As cases come out of the tumbler,
    they're put base up in a loading block to poke the piece of media out of the flash hole and sort head stamps.

    Pistol cases get washed, dried and tumbled. .45ACP gets sorted for small primers as they go in, then around on the LNL AP.
    For powder checking, I sit where I can look down into the charged case after the measure is all set up & going.

    There's a couple of short cuts I take, and a few I don't,
    but this system works for me, and it's 'handy'.

    I wash cases before they get tumbled so my dry media doesn't get dirty and 'clogged' so soon.
    I polish as a last step with rifle cases to keep any abrasives out of the sizing die,
    and do it after I'm mostly done handling them.
    With pistol cases, after a million or so- I figure I might need to get another carbide sizer.
    Last edited by Winger Ed.; 02-07-2020 at 02:42 PM.
    It wasn't playing the blame game, finding fault, and complaining about every little thing that made America great.
    It was God, guns, and guts.

  19. #19
    Capt*Kirk,
    I have a Hornady LnL Progressive. I typically deprime/size on it, tumble clean, hand prime, then charge/seat/prime. I don't get 300 rounds per hour, but once I have a load dialed in on my Rockchucker, I can swap the dies to my LnL, and load up a hundred or so quicker than on my RCBS...but I don't try for 300 an hour, or anywhere close to it. Not as anal as some, I admit, but I don't use the press to its full potential, if all ya wanna do is dump brass, seat bullets, and pump out ammo.
    Don't want no one to git hurt, but if you're gonna have a wreck, I wanna watch.

  20. #20
    Boolit Buddy Captain*Kirk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by calm seas View Post
    Capt*Kirk,
    I have a Hornady LnL Progressive. I typically deprime/size on it, tumble clean, hand prime, then charge/seat/prime. I don't get 300 rounds per hour, but once I have a load dialed in on my Rockchucker, I can swap the dies to my LnL, and load up a hundred or so quicker than on my RCBS...but I don't try for 300 an hour, or anywhere close to it. Not as anal as some, I admit, but I don't use the press to its full potential, if all ya wanna do is dump brass, seat bullets, and pump out ammo.
    Well, this is what I'm after, and as you can see, I get the desired results:



    Wouldn't mind doing it faster, but not at the expense of quality.
    "Are you gonna pull those pistols, or whistle Dixie?"

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check