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Thread: OK .223 experts - newbie ,223 shooter needs some advise on problems with reloading

  1. #1
    Boolit Master bedbugbilly's Avatar
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    OK .223 experts - newbie ,223 shooter needs some advise on problems with reloading

    I need some input on some things I’ve run into in starting to reload for the .223. I got a call from my LGS that the Ruger American Ranch Rifle in 5.56/.223 that I had ordered was in and the scope was mounted and bore sighted – ready to pick up. For the price of this rifle, I’m impressed with it and I think it will serve me well for what I’m going to use it for. That said . . . I have run into some “issues” in working on getting ready to reload some rounds for it.

    So here goes . . . on night at the range, my shooting buddy and I picked up 350 cases of 5.56 military head stamped, that had been shot while we were there. We didn’t see the shooters but they were shooting at least two ARs – obviously to see how much ammo they could shoot rather than for accuracy. I’m a scrounger . . . so hey . . .this "range brass" will work well in the new rifle. Hmmmmm

    So I deprime it using a universal deprimer die (I do all my brass that way). I ordered a RCBS primer pocket swaging die kit and swaged the pockets. I tumbled and polished and then
    FL resized the brass in my Lee FL die – leaving the depriming stem in to expand the sized neck. In measuring the length of the cases with my digital calipers, they were all over the place. Some (very few) were right on 1.750 and I had some beyond 1.769 - several at 1.778. So, I used my Lee trim die and trimmed them all to length to 1.748 – 1.750.

    I bought 1K of .224 – 55 grain FMJ from Bob’s Bullets. Since the longest COAL the AR box magazine on my Ruger American Ranch rifle will allow is an overall length of 2.250, I made up several dummy rounds with the now processed scrounged military brass and tried to cycle them in the rifle. It was a “no go” – the bolt would not close and lock. The 55 grain FMJ was held just by neck tension which appears to be good. I made up another one, thinking that I could push on the bolt and the bullet would slide back in the neck if it was hitting the bore – which I didn’t think was happening as I saw no indication on the bullet from the rifling. I even coated the bullet, neck and shoulder of the case with black felt pen and the pointed bullet had no marks on it but it appeared that the shoulder of the casing may be tight in the chamber? So, I grab my Hornady case gauge and slide the dummy round in it and sure enough, it sticks out just about the thickness of the rim or a little less. I will add that when I FL sized the military brass, I had my shell holder touching the bottom of the die just in case the casing had swelled there in the chamber of the AR they had been fired in. (I ran into this problem one time with some 308 casings I had picked up at a range).

    I don't have a micrometer with me, but using my digital calipers, the OD of the neck neck of the dummy round with military brass measures ..247 and the OD of the neck of the dummy round with the Starline brass measures .250 - which would indicate that the thickness of the brass n the neck of the military brass is actually thinner than that of the Starline brass. My 2nd edition to he Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook shows that the neck OD at .253 - so I'm thinking it is the shoulder of the military brass that is preventing it from chambering correctly?

    O.K. So I loaded some more dummy rounds with the military brass and the sane thing. Hmmmmmm.

    I had purchased 250 new Starline .223 Remington cases so I grabbed some, ran them through the same FL sizing die I had used on the military brass, loaded some dummy rounds – tried them in the Hornady case gauge and all looked perfect and all cycled through the bolt action just fine. And, I double checked the Starline brass and it was 1.745 – 1.750 overall length.

    So my questions are:

    I know “all chambers are not created equal” . . . but if they are reamed to SAAMI specs, is my rifle’s chamber on the small side of the spec and the ARs that fired the military brass on the large side? If both the military brass AND the Starline brass was run through the same FL sizing die at the same setting, why is the military brass dummy rounds too tight to get the bolt closed but the Starline dummy rounds work and cycle perfectly? The dummy rounds were loaded with just the neck tension but I even used my Lee Factory Crimp die and put a fairly good crimp on a couple of the dummy rounds and they still would not chamber all the way. The COAL of all the dummy rounds were all the same – 2.250.

    Another problem with the military brass came up when hand priming. I used the RCBS swaging die kit in my single stage – the first time I have swaged primer pockets. I use a Frankford Arsenal hand primer and have for a long time on a wide variety of pistol and rifle brass. I found that I had to go back and set the swaging die deeper as about 1 out of 5 of the military cases were giving me issues – either wouldn’t accept a primer or a difficult push in – others went in like butter.

    Can someone point out what I’m not doing correctly when it comes to the 5.56 military brass?

    This will be the only 223 rifle I will be shooting and reloading for. My thoughts are that once the brass is fire formed to the rifle, I will just neck size the spent casings to reload. If part of the problem is that my rifle has a tight chamber, I can easily just stick to the Starline brass as for what shooting I will be doing, it’s not going to break me to order another 250 cases and just stick to Starline brass since the dummy rounds seem to function fine in the rifle. I can easily see how my Hornady case gauge will be my best friend when loading for this rifle.

    I have used a ton of “range brass” in a wide variety of flavors, but never have I had the challenge that these 5.56 military casings have presented, but it has also been a good learning experience albeit a frustrating one. So is the lesson I should take from this one that tells me to avoid military 5.56 range brass for use in my particular rifle?

    Any advice on what I am doing wrong on them, why they aren’t chambering or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks!

    Jim

  2. #2
    Boolit Master Hick's Avatar
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    Jim

    I'm not an expert-- but I do have a CZ 527 in 223 Remington. Mine chambers 5.56 military brass just fine when full length sized. Here's a thought though-- Try full length sizing the Starline, measure the shoulder length, then fire some of these rounds with the 55 FMJ bullets. Then measure the shoulder dimensions of the as-fired cases. I have an Argentine Mauser that would not chamber some rounds, and I discovered that the shoulders of the as-fired cases were actually the same or slightly shorter than the cases before firing. In other words, the shoulder position in the Mauser chamber was just a little tight. If the shoulder in your chamber is tight, the Starline cases will not grow when fired. If the shoulder is generous, they will grow. Of course, you could do a chamber cast-- but comparing before and after sizes of cases might give you some clues.
    Hick: Iron sights!

  3. #3
    Boolit Master bedbugbilly's Avatar
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    Thank you Hick - will try the. ////what has me scratching my head is that the rifle is chambered in 5.56. I think I will pick up a couple of boxes of different 5.56 - which of course should chamber. I'm wondering if he chamber of the AR these were fired in could the been off enough that the shoulder is just too tight in my chamber I don't have a heavy single stage - have a RCBS Jr 3 here and in Michigan that has always worked fine form my 30-30, 308 and 8mm Kauser. Perhaps my press (and me) aren't heavy enough th push the shoulder of the 5.56 military brass back into place if the chamber it wass fired in allowed it to extend just enough? And . . th new starling shouter would be within spec so it allows it to chamber in my rifle?

  4. #4
    Boolit Grand Master tazman's Avatar
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    You may need to check and see if the shellholder is still touching the bottom of the sizing die when the ram is all the way to the top under load. Sometimes, there is enough slack in the linkage that when set up without pressure on the ram, it will not go all the way up under load.
    Put a casing in and run the ram fully up under sizing pressure and check to see if there is any space showing between the shellholder and the bottom of the die. If there is space, there is your problem. I have had this happen a couple of times.
    Once, I even had to take a little metal off the bottom of the sizing die in order to get the loaded rounds to work.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master Tripplebeards's Avatar
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    I’m with Tasman. I’m guessing you don’t have your full length sizing die turned down far enough. I use 5.56 lake city brass in my ltr223 and POF P415. I also FL size them with my RCBS dies.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    If they fit in the case guage, they should fit the chamber. Mine do in the Thompson Encore, and DPMS.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master knifemaker's Avatar
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    It does sound like the shoulder of the sized military brass may be to long and hitting the chamber shoulder and preventing the round being fully seated in the chamber. If those rounds were fired in a rifle that had excessive headspace, that would allow the shoulder to grow in length and exceed SAAMI spects. If that is the case, your sizing die is not sitting the case shoulder back far enough.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master

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    I'd run the sizer down until you can just barely feel it 'bump' at the top.

    The GI brass tends to be thicker and could have a little spring back effect so it doesn't quite chamber with your currant adjustment.

    When I got back into reloading, I got a set of Lyman 'Black dies for black rifles'...…. and love 'em.
    They come with a sizer, seater, loaded round guage, and a taper crimper.
    I did trash the expander ball after a few thousand GI cases, and got the new fancy carbide one & stem to replace it.

    I had a RCBS pocket swagger, and didn't really like it.
    Now, I use a common de-burring tool about the size of your thumb in the lathe.
    Spin it as slow as it'll go, and press the primer pocket on it for about a second.
    After a few- you'll feel when the ridge is cut off.

    Midway used to sell a 1/4" shaft adapter for that size de-burring
    tool to fit in so you could put it in a drill press and do them that way.
    Last edited by Winger Ed.; 03-07-2020 at 02:53 AM.
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  9. #9
    Boolit Master Tripplebeards's Avatar
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    Just make some dummy rounds and keep bumping your full length sizer die down a little at a time till your dummy rounds chamber. I had the same issue with an AR 10 in 243. I made the mistake of taking it out for the first time with some 90 grain fmj’s I loaded just off the lands for my Remington 700. The first two rounds must went off. The action must slammed so hard the projectiles must have pushed in enough to close it. Both cases were cracked. The third projectile never moved and the action stayed open about a 1/4” with the projectile unseated from the casing and stuck in the chamber. I bought a rcbs AR die set the next day(not needed) along with a Lyman case checker and hornady shoulder checker. All not neede imo because I just loaded ammo for another rifle in my AR. After experimenting the most accurate and reliable rounds came from the way I always load. After making a dummy round to check my OAL I loaded about 20/30 thousands off the lands and spun my original RCBS FL die down a quarter turn past flush with the shell holder and they all cycled perfectly. I tried bumping the the case neck just off the land with the once fired cases for “accuracy” and my groups opened up. I also tried some round in my AR dies and the rounds opened up as well.


    My guess is your running your cases all the way down into your sizing die and the base of your casing is is to large in diameter and hanging up. Smoke your whole dummy round or color it with a black marker and then try to load it to see where it’s scratched up showing where it’s getting stuck in your chamber.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master
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    A very knowledgeable gunsmith friend of mine tells me Ruger AR chambers are all over the board. Soooo the bolt guns who knows?

    I do agree with the advice from the others that the military brass may be tougher to bump back into spec.

    A little more tinkering and you will get there.

  11. #11
    Boolit Grand Master


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    As mentioned make sure the FL die is screwed into the press so the ram does not "cam over". The shell holder should bump solidly against the bottom of the FL die. Also, all cases are not created equal and the web area can be thicker on some. If the decap/expander rad is too far in some cases may be stopped from FL sizing by the rod. You might back it out a tudge to make sure that's not happening.

    I suggest, once your chambering problem is resolved, you use an RCBS X-die (the standard .223, the "AR or small base die is not necessary) to fl size the cases for your Ranch Rifle. The cases will last forever that way and you won't have to trim the cases after every firing.
    Larry Gibson

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  12. #12
    Boolit Master 44magLeo's Avatar
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    As you size your brass hold the brass up in the die longer. This squeezes the brass a bit more than just in/out does.
    Does your brass as it sets in the shell holder have much extra space to lift the brass up/down? if so shim the brass up by slipping the blade of a feeler gauge between the shell holder and brass. Use a thick enough blade to remove the extra space. This will push the brass up into the die the thickness of the blade. This will size the case a bit more.
    Either of these or both may help get your cases to fit in your rifle. Once they fit you should be able to just resize as normal on subsequent loadings.
    If not then you can try something a bit more extreme.
    On my 250 Savage I built I got the head space set a bit tight. Factory loads would fit fine. When I reloaded them they would be hard to chamber. I took the shell holder and put it face down on a medium Arkansas stone and worked it down a tried sizing a case. I repeated this honing on the shell holder till the cases would chamber.
    I keep that shell holder with that set of dies.
    You may have to do this to get those cases to fit the first time. After that you can just minimize your F/L length sizing so the die just touches the shoulder with out pushing it back or neck size.
    I have the Lee $ dies set for my 223. I neck size brass fired in my rifle. If I get brass not fired in my rifle I F/L size, try them in my rifle, They usually fit ok. If not then I try the feeler gauge. So far that's the most I have had to do.
    Leo

  13. #13
    Boolit Buddy
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    Sounds like you need the RCBS small base die.


  14. #14
    Boolit Master Tripplebeards's Avatar
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    I have one I bought for my 243 AR..,I referred to it in my above post as an AR die...my mistake. I found out I didn’t lower my standard die flush with my shell holder an I also loaded them to long. I at least have the SB 243 die as a backup if needed.


    You die set might not be a specs as well. I’d take a few of the cases and Cam over in small increments and see how long it takes to get to the point that you start squishing/wrecking your cases.

    The other thing to do is buy a hornady headspace comparator like I did when I had an issue last year....of not lowering my die flush with my shell holder. At least it’s another tool to keep in my bag of tricks.


    This will help you here’s a post I did last year with some photos when I had my issues. Like I said I bought Small base dies but didn’t need them because it was my fault for getting excited and just wanted to shoot my gun and skip step in the reloading reloading process and grabbed an optic loaded for another rifle...a big no no.

    http://www.predatormastersforums.com...3204952&page=1



    I called RCBS when I was having the issue. The customer service rep told me that the small bass dies are 2000’s of an inch smaller on the inside versus the standard dies which he explained is basically about half the thickness of a piece of paper. The dies are made for more reliable cycling in ARs and semi autos when they start getting dirty and fowling up.

    Here is another post I asked about the dies...

    http://www.predatormastersforums.com...53#Post3204953


    Sounds like you need to bump your case necks back a little more. If it were me I’d just keep spinning your die down an 1/8th of an inch or less at a time after flush with your shell holder (cam over) and keep repeating Till you wreck a case. Then back it off a hair, size a fresh case and test it again so see if it feeds. It’s worth a try and all you’ll be out are a few free casings. By doing this your basically bumping your case necks back. I had to spin my die in down a quarter turn past flush (or more) to bump my case necks lower on my 243 loads. The RCBC rep told me my dies weren’t probably in spec. That’s where the hornady comparator comes in handy so you can measure your fired casings so don’t have excessive headspace when setting up your dies.
    Last edited by Tripplebeards; 03-07-2020 at 05:18 PM.

  15. #15
    Boolit Master
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    I picked up a small base die for the first time sizing range brass for the 223 it has helped tremendously . I figured the cost of the die would mean I would never have to buy brass for the 223 .
    I haven't used the feeler gage trick in the 223 but have in other cases it worked well .
    I love to use LC brass .

  16. #16
    Boolit Master Tripplebeards's Avatar
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    I bought a 1000 virgin lake city 5.56 cases last year for around $119 from mid south shooters supply. The last time they were available about 6 or more years ago I paid $114 for 500 virgin L.C. Cases. I shoot .3” at 200 yards using them along with 25 grains of Benchmark and a 60 grain vmax out of my 14.5” POF P415. My avatar is the first 100 yard three shot group I tried using them. When it was negative 12 degrees with a 15 mph wind. I shot a .3” group at 200 yards with the next three rounds. From what I’ve read LC. Brass is top notch. I see midway is out now. Glad I grabbed it up when I did and should have bought more.

    Looks like graffs have some...

    https://www.grafs.com/catalog/product/productId/77610


    When I it wasn’t available I bought a Dillon 600 swager. A lot of work but works just fine. I bought a 1000 once fired same 2018’ matching for $89. I sized, trimmed, swaged them all and basically broke even selling them for what I paid for the same lot of virgin LC brass when I became available again a year later.
    Last edited by Tripplebeards; 03-07-2020 at 07:28 PM.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master
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    My initial thought is that your brass is experiencing spring back. In other words, you are setting the shoulder back to "spec" but the brass is too hard to hold the set. Anneal a few of the case necks on the offending brass and try again. Or measure with a headspace gauge if you have one.
    Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats. H.L. Mencken

  18. #18
    Boolit Buddy

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    Also try lubing the inside of your necks. I use graphite. After you size with the up stroke, then go down stroke and pull the sizing button out, if not lubed, it can grab the inside of the neck and pull the shoulder forward enough for it to cause problems.

  19. #19
    Boolit Master bedbugbilly's Avatar
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    Thank you all very much for the great information - it is greatly appreciated and I am making notes in my loading notebook on the various suggestions.

    When I FL sized the brass, I "spot checked" with my case gauge - a good lesson for beginning with a new cartridge to do them all! I made a crude but effective jig to measure the shoulder location in relation to the bottom of the base and all seemed to be O.K. The suggestions of leaving the brass up in the die for a short time are well taken - something I never considered but should have. What I did discover - as someone suggested and I should have known to look at from an experience I had with 308, was to check the bases. It appears that the ones that wouldn't chamber in the rifle and on which the bottom extended a "Kosh" above the case gauge is being caused by the base, not the neck. I know when we were at the range where we collected the brass, the shooters were shooting at least 2 but possibly 3 ARs. I know nothing about
    ARs, but could one of them have a chamber enough out of spec to cause the base to expand just enough to where it is oversize? I have readjusted my FL die but on those, I cannot iron out the base enough to make it a go in the case gauge. I'm guessing maybe 1 in 5 are like that - the rest haves resized just fine and will go in the case gauge perfectly. I will now go back and do what I should have in the first place - try each one in the case gauge and cull out the ones that are giving issues and when I have time, concentrate on them to find the solution. The die suggestions are well taken. I bought a set of Lee dies to start with - not being critical of them in any way as I use a number of them - but - I am not married to them either. I am open to trying others as you suggest.

    I also mentioned issues with some of the primer pockets I swaged - I read the instructions n the RCBS set of swaging dies I bought - watched a number of videos but still had problems with getting timers in some of them - others went in like butter. Someone mentioned that they had tried the RCBS set but liked reaming them better so I will be looking in to making a jig that I can bolt to the table of my bench drill press and using the drill press to run a reamer. I would think I would get a better finished primer pocket with a reamer than a swage?

    In the meantime, I have FL sized some of the Starline brass I have, primed them and am ready to load up some rounds to work up a load. Hopefully I can get out this week with the rifle and see how it shoots!

    Thank you all again for your help and suggestions - I'm pushing 70 but never to old to learn and I will certainly try the things you suggest. Thanks for your input - a lot of good suggestions that should be compiled and put in a stickie just for folks like me!

  20. #20
    Boolit Master Drew P's Avatar
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    The idea of swaging is that it’s better because it doesn’t remove metal, just reforms it. However, reaming and chamfering also works great and it removes metal that you don’t need or want anyway.
    As for chambering, try the brass before you have loaded it. This will eliminate several possible causes like seating depth, and it’s free.
    The size button can pull the neck out a lot!
    Sometimes with stubborn brass I “double tap” FL size which means I size once and then rotate the brass about 180° and run it up again, this helps somehow lol. GFL and PPU brass is common trouble for me.
    A Sheridan case gauge may be helpful. They are the only gauges I know of that are actually chamber shaped inside. Good tools.
    Read the adjustment instructions for your dies to make sure you’re exactly following them.
    Use good lube. Lanolin based is what I rely on for stubborn brass.
    I had trouble with 223 and finally found the best die for mixed range brass was my Redding pro FL bushing die.

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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