Care Feeding and Maintenance of Precision Rifles Part III – Making Ammo

 photo 017_zps7r7ygz5v.jpg

I have written a couple of articles about how to Care, Feed and Maintain Your Precision Rifle and these have proven really popular which, in turn, has inspired me to write another article geared towards the new shooter. This post goes into some more detail on the first steps needed to make good ammo for your rifle and so while it can be read as a stand-alone post, it is really Part III of the Care Feeding and Maintenance Series.

If you have read the Part II article ( if not, here it is : ) you have got your basic supplies and have set it up in a suitable space. You have also bought some quality components and have at least one reloading manual – I recommend buying a few manuals because as is the case with potato chips ( or “crisps” for the UK readers ) “you can’t have just one”.

Having More Than One Manual Is Helpful

 photo Reloading 017_zpsfekdrjh1.jpg

For the purposes of this article let us assume that the new reloader has purchased a heavy barreled Remington 700 chambered in .308 Winchester and that he or she has access to a range that goes out to 300 yards or so. This assumed this rifle, chambering and range combo is the most common I could think of but if your circumstances are different don’t worry as the information I present will still work well for you.

I’m also going to assume that because the new reloader is only going to shoot out to about 300 yards that they purchased some 168g bullets, some Varget powder and some Federal Gold Medal Match (FGMM) primers. For brass I am assuming that my imaginary reloader followed the advice I gave in my earlier article and shot FGMM ammo until reloading gear was purchased and so has on hand a nice stock of once fired Federal cases. ( a lot of people don’t like Federal but I see no harm in using the brass that you have until it is time to buy new in which case I recommend Lapua )

Lapua Brass – My Preferred Choice If Buying New

 photo Reloading 013_zpsv3bxhdgt.jpg

For reference, let us agree that the factory ammo usually gave our shooter five shot groups that measured in and around the 3/4 minute mark which wouldn’t be unreasonable out of such a rifle.

What we are going to do is work together to turn these components into ammo that is match-grade and capable, in the right hands, of printing nice tidy little groups that at least equal the factory match ammo.

The first thing we need to do is to decide upon which step to do first – clean the brass or de-prime and resize it ? I suppose that the very best thing to do would be to clean it first as then you wouldn’t be putting dirty brass into your resizing dies but I do it the other way around. My brass isn’t all muddied up and I am in favor of keeping the number of steps down to only those that are really necessary so I deprime and resize first.

I recommend that newer shooters Full Length resize – if you really want to, you can always neck size down the road as you get more experienced with reloading. With neck sizing you can run into feeding issues and so, especially for a hunting or tactical rifle where you certainly want the round to easily chamber every time, FL sizing is the better choice. As a matter of fact while I neck size for my F-Open and F/TR rifles, I do FL resize for everything else and to be perfectly frank I am actually leaning towards the view that I am not able to see any appreciable difference in accuracy using a neck die over a FL die. On this issue some pretty knowledgeable guys ( like Kevin Thomas of Team Lapua USA for example ) are quite strongly of the view that neck sizing of brass gives no advantages at all.

Redding and Forster Dies – Neck and Full Length

 photo 011_zpsgdt0it0q.jpg

Your reloading manual will tell you how to set up your dies and these instructions should be followed. If your ammo is likely to be used in more than one rifle I recommend that with the ram raised, you run the die down all the way until it touches the shell holder. Then you lower the ram and screw the die in an additional 1/8 to 1/4 turn before securing the locking ring. This way will ensure your ammo fits and feeds easily in all your rifles chambered in the same calibre.

If you have only one rifle that this ammo is going to be used in you can set up your die so that the ammo is tailor-made for this one chamber but that is a story for next time. Today we are keeping it nice and simple.

Ok, before placing your fired brass in the die you need to lubricate the cases – this is really, really important. If you don’t lubricate your cases one will get stuck in the die and then you are in serious goo-goo unless you have a special tool to hand for removing said case.

You Hope You Don’t Need This

 photo 002_zps1t0ukfxp.jpg

I personally don’t use sprays for lubing cases preferring instead to lubricate cases with a lube pad for the body and a brush for the inside of the necks.

My Preferred Way To Lube Cases

 photo 006_zpsaapgjycy.jpg

Once all your fired brass is de-primed and resized you should trim them to length. Reloading manuals say to trim to 2.005 – but don’t panic is you go below that as SAAMI specs allow for the cartridge to be shorter – and that is the number you should aim for. There are lots of ways to trim and these days I like to use the World’s Finest Trimmer which attaches to a drill and is fast and efficient once set up ( setting up is a bit tricky – hence the reason I know about trimming too short ! ).

Trimmer Attaches To Drill

 photo 016_zpssl2lnwaj.jpg

Trimmers Available In A Variety Of Calibers

 photo 003_zpsyezl19ib.jpg

Deburring and chamfering of necks is the last step and there are both power and hand tools for this – I use an old-fashioned hand tool as I find this little task to be both therapeutic and a good opportunity to actually inspect each case. There are powered tools that can do this job and I have been tempted by a specialty tool made by Giraud Tool Company that trims, chamfers and deburrs all in one step but it is expensive and, like I said, I find this exercise therapeutic.

Hand Tool For Deburring and Chamfering

 photo 004_zps8k6ujmso.jpg

Others will write about the importance of cleaning up primer pockets and such things but we will leave that alone for this article. Likewise all talk of neck turning and annealing can also be left for another day.

Having done all the resizing and trimming it is now time to clean up your brass – actually, you don’t absolutely have to do this but since you need to get the lube off any way why not. I like to clean my brass in a case tumbler which I use with Lyman media though any brand will be fine. Let the brass tumble away for a couple of hours or so and it will come out looking real nice and shiny. Tip – the nature of the beast is that vibratory tumblers are loud and irritating so keep them in a shop/garage/basement if you can. Tip #2 – make sure you check brass for small little bits of media getting stuck in places like the flash hole – if you find any there they can be removed with a dental pick or similar.

Old Dental Picks – Very Handy Tools For Gunnies To Have

 photo 010_zpstet0mhd2.jpg
Now you will have some nice shiny brass that looks like new and it will be time to prime them – it sucks to miss this step and charge all the cases only to realize that they have no darn primers in them; ask me how I know !

Freshly Clean and Ready to Reprime

 photo 001_zpshrubagqa.jpg

To re-prime my brass I use the RCBS hand primer that came with my kit when I bought it a thousand years ago. Any brand of hand primer will work and your goal is to smoothly insert a primer into the pocket at a uniform depth. You don’t want a primer sitting too high ( especially is something like a M1A ) nor do you want to ram them in too deep so just go slow until you develop a ‘feel’ for what you are doing.

RCBS Hand Primer

 photo 015_zpsu2pisz58.jpg

When all your primed brass is done take a break – you have deserved it. In Part IV of this series we will charge up those primed cases and continue making quality ammo. See you next time !

Primed and Ready For Powder

 photo 007_zpstls47sh1.jpg

2 thoughts on “Care Feeding and Maintenance of Precision Rifles Part III – Making Ammo

  1. Question – when in this very nicely laid out process would you anneal??? I know that it’s before priming (thank you……), but before cleaning?? After cleaning??




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s