Processing brass in Bulk
I reload 223 and 9mm by the bucket.
I am mostly shooting steel plates and cardboard in action type matches.
I don't bother to do match prep of the brass for ammo like this because it won't make enough difference.
I don't deburr flash holes, clean primer pockets, uniform primer pockets, turn case necks or weigh cases/bullets.
Consider the techniques and methods below to be for general purpose ammo, not match grade ammo.
All brass needs to get cleaned and sized before you can reload it.
I am going to describe my rifle brass process because it is much more involved.
Pistol brass skips the whole operation where the brass gets sized and trimmed as I size the pistol ammo on the same press that loads it.
The bucket method
I don't like to individually handle brass.
I use what I like to call the "bucket method".
I pickup dirty brass off the ground and it goes in a bucket.
I sort the brass by cartridge to ensure that only one cartridge type (223/9mm etc...) is in each bucket.
Pour the bucket in the tumbler to clean it.
Seperate the brass from the media.
Pour clean brass in the casefeeder on the sizing/trimming machine.
My press lubes, decaps, sizes and trims all in one setup.
Pour the sized/lubed/trimmed brass in the tumbler again to remove lube.
Seperate the brass from the media.
Pour fully processed brass in the casefeeder of the loading machine.
The loading machine clears the flash hole of media, swages the primer pocket, primes, charges, seats and crimps.
Out comes finished ammo.
Some people may point out that I am not inspecting the cases.
The inspection for damaged cases happens during the lube/size/trim as you get to feel when you have a hard-to-size case and cull these to the scrap bucket.
It's better to catch them early than wait until they are in the press being loaded.
You have to trim rifle cases before you can reload them unless you know that the length of each case is acceptable.
I load in large quantities so it's actually faster for me to trim the cases than to check the length.
There are besically two methods to trim cases in large quantities, a Dillon Trimmer or a Giraud Trimmer.
The Dillon trimmer is basically a full length sizing die with a motorized carbide cutter on top.
The case gets pushed up into the trim die and a portion of the neck sticks out the top of the die.
The trim length is set by adjusting the cutter height until it trims the case to the desired length.
You size and trim in one pass.
The Dillon trimmer does NOT lube, decap, neck expand or chamfer/deburr the cases though.
The Dillon trimmer's big advantage comes when you use it on a progressive press.
You can add other dies on the toolhead to deprime, lube, and neck expand.
That lets you deprime, size, trim and neck expand all at the same time.
The Giraud trimmer operates much like an electric pencil sharpener.
You insert the case into the trimmer, press it inward and rotate 1/2 turn.
The neck sticks into the trimmer body.
There is a rotating carbide cutter inside the trimmer body that cuts off the excess length.
The cutter is setup in such a manner that it also deburrs the outside and chamfers the inside of the neck.
The Giraud does NOT lube, deprime, size or neck expand the case.
You would have to do that in regular dies which does add several operations if you are loading on a single stage press.
This could all be done in a progressive press though and then you would only need to do the actual trimming on the Giraud.
While the Giraud is nice and fast and I use one for match prepped brass, the dillon is much faster when you include the time to size the cases.
Also, your fingers won't be sore as you don't have to actually handle each case.
It's my opinion that a Dillon trimmer setup on a progressive press with a casefeeder is the better method to process brass by the bucket because you can do everything in a single pass through the press without having to handle individual cases.
If you are not processing brass in bulk, then a Giraud is probably a better setup, especially if you don't use a progressive press.
Trim length accuracy
The primary reasons for trimming are two-fold.
First, you don't want the case to be so long that it could jam into the end of the chamber's neck and elevate pressures.
This has a relatively low tolerance requirement.
The case just needs to be short enough to NOT hit the end of the chamber's neck.
Second, you want the trim length consistent in order to apply a consistent crimp.
This has a much higher tolerance requirement as a consistent crimp is important to consistent ignition and resultant accuracy.
There's two ways to look at trim length accuracy.
One way is to measure the neck length from the headspace datum to the end of the case.
The other way is to measure the length of the case with a pair of calipers.
I believe the second method is better because it ensures a more consistent crimp.
Girard's trim length consistency relies on the shoulder length being consistent in order for trim lengths to be consistent.
The Dillon trim lengths reference to the case head, regardless of shoulder length consistency, so press frame stretch during sizing is the only variable.
So, let's assume that cases will be sized, but due to differences in brass hardness or annealing, that the headspace lengths will all be within 0.003" or so throughout a run of cases.
This is about what I have found when measuring a bunch of cases of all different headstamps run through the same sizing setup.
If you trim these cases referenced from the shoulder and make an assumption that the case trimmer will trim to 0.001" repeatedly, you SHOULD find that the OAL is all within 0.002" to 0.004" when measured to the case head.
Now, look at the design of a reloading press and you will note that the datum point is the case head.
When you are shoving the case into the sizing die, the case head is pushed against.
When you are shoving the case into the seating die, the case head is pushed against.
When you are shoving the case into the crimping die, the case head is pushed against.
The distance from the feature of the die that causes the crimp is only held consistent to the press ram (shellholder/case head), NOT to the case's shoulder.
So, in order for crimps to be consistent, you need the OVERALL CASE LENGTH to be consistent, NOT the neck length from the shoulder.
Now look at a trimming solution like the Dillon that I use.
The trim lengths will generally be between 0.001" to 0.002" throughout the whole run of brass.
The shoulder's length is NOT a factor.
With the more consistent trim length, you will get more consistent crimps.
Of course, if you are not crimping, it will NOT matter what datum is used to determine trim length.
You are only working in the low tolerance requirements of just being sure that your cases are not too long.
In the end, either trimming method is probably fine.
Match grade ammo using match grade bullets are usually not crimped.
About chamfering and deburring...
The Giraud does chamfer and deburr the cases as part of trimming.
This is the big advantage it has over the Dillon.
Here is a case trimmed, chamferred and deburred with the Giraud's cutter blade:
I find that the Dillon trimmer cuts such a nice square edge that additional deburring is not really necessary.
Just tumble the brass after lube/size/trim and the natural action of tumbling knocks off any burrs that may have been left hanging on the edge.
One little trick I use is to double-bump the case in the Dillon trimmer.
Bring the ram to full stroke, back the handle off about 1" which just pulls the case down maybe 1/16", enough to fold the outside burr straight up if there is one.
Then run the ram all the way up again.
This second bump does two things, first it makes sure the shoulder is sized correctly and second, it trims off any burr that may have been raised up, leaving a perfectly square outside edge to the case mouth.
Here is one off my Dillon trimmer after tumbling:
Before you load the brass, it needs to be neck expanded.
Any burr that may have been left inside the case mouth gets knocked off by the expander button.
So, by the time you load the brass, the case mouths are completely squared off.
I don't think that a chamfered case makes the ammo any better.
The main reason to chamfer cases is to get rid of any burrs created during trimming.
On match 223 ammo, I use a Lyman VLD reamer in a small makita drill to break the inside edge some more to make seating match bullets nicer in a hand die.
No matter which trimmer you choose, you still need to lube, decap and size the cases.
I run an RCBS lube die to decap and lube the cases.
I had to modify it to have a larger lube capacity otherwise you have to stop every 100 rounds and add lube to it.
I am using two other dies to support the shellplate platform from flexing.
First, the modified lube die in station 1 and last the powder die in station 5.
The Dillon trimmer is in station 3, across from stations 1 and 5.
These two dies are set hard against the shellplate along with the trim die.
I may have shortened the trim die a bit to get it to size the right amount without needing to stretch the press frame.
When you feel a single stage press "pop" over center, that's the press flexing.
The 650 does not pass over center, it stops at center.
If you are sharp, you would catch that I am not neck expanding in that setup.
Since I load on a separate press, I have the first station available to neck expand and remove any media from the flash hole.
The media simply falls into the spent primer cup.
I use a 22-250 die pulled up off the press 3/8" and let the decapper hang down 3/8" to expand the case necks to neck expand and decap.
The rest of the loading process goes like normal for a Dillon 1050.
If you are not processing brass in a progressive pres, I recommend Dillon's spray lube.
Get a two small cardboard boxes such as a men's wallet comes in.
Drop a dozen cases in the box and give it a squirt.
Shake the box to spread the lube around.
Then set it aside to dry.
When you have two boxes going like this, one box is always drying while you are sizing the cases in the other box.
When you run out of cases in one box, add more, then add lube and shake, then rotate boxes again to use the cases that are lubed and dryed.
I load on a Dillon 1050.
It has 8 stations.
station 1 is where the case gets inserted.
station 2 has a 22-250 neck sizing die set high in the press
this knocks out media from 2nd tumbling and neck expands DOWNWARDS like a lyman M die.
station 3 swages primer pockets.
station 4 primes.
station 5 charges powder.
station 6 checks powder charge.
station 7 seats the bullet.
station 8 crimps the bullet and ejects the loaded round into the loaded ammo bin.
Closing comments and random thoughts
Lube/Decap/Size/Trim goes at about 500 rounds per hour on the 650.
Decap/Neck Expand/Swage/Prime/Charge/Seat/Crimp goes at about 800 rounds per hour on the 1050.
I run my dillon trimmer for a couple hours at a time.
I'm too tired after that.
It gets hot, but in my application, this is a good thing.
The heat warms up the toolhead, which then makes the lube flow through the RCBS lube die easier.
I have a vacum cleaner pulling chips off the Dillon trimmer.
With the vacum cleaner and the trimmer motor, it's quite load so I wear earmuffs.
The Girard trimmer beats a Dillon trimmer for through-put if you don't mount the Dillon trimmer in a progressive press with an automatic casefeed and lube die system.
The way I have it setup, the press is doing more work than just trimming and it's doing it very fast.
Don't size and trim on the 1050.
It's too hard to clean out the stray trimmings.
The 650 is better in this respect because the primer system is very easy to remove/clean.
The 1050 is probably not as strong for sizing rifle cases as the 650 due to the diameter of the shellplate.
I size and trim on a 650 for these reasons.
I only use the 1050 to swage, prime, charge, seat and crimp.
Saving this for later.
Randall I am sure many people will appreciate this. Not much to discuss but I will add a little.
My box method is throw three double hand fulls of brass into a large cardboard box, spray 10 pumps of dillon case lube, shake vigorously, let air, and then pour into casefeeder.
For those of us only using a XL650, Here is what I do.
2. Box method lube, let air, and then pour 1 double handful at a time into casefeeder.
3. Deprime with dillon's universal decapper. Its more expensive then other universal decappers but the decapping pin has a curve on it making it easier to decap .223 cases. Station 1
4. Size/Trim Station 3
5. Neck expand.
6. Tumble lube off.
7. Swag with dillon super swager. Much easy than using a rock chucker and swaging kit.
8. Tumble polish. Processing Complete. Ready to load.
I prefer to run my casefeed system dry.
That's why I lube in station 1.
The rest of the casefeed system stays clean.
Does the use of a Lube Die prevent getting neck scratches in the brass from the trim die; over the use of spray lube?
I have never had a problem with my dies until I tried some RCBS Spray Lube, and I will never use it again, it ruined my dies and brass.
Am I better of running a 22-250 die "set the way described" in station 5 or a 223 Lyman M Die with the decaping stem removed. (I would also leave the decaping stem in the lube die)
Thank you guys "ar15barrels" and "joelogic" for helping me out with my soon to be setup; I have over 20K pieces of .223 that need processing and I'm in the process of purchasing a Dillon 650 and striving to build a system similar to the both of yours.
I use the RCBS liquid lube that they supply with the lube die or with the lube pad.
It's a very heavy lube.
The lube die only deposits it on the case body, not the neck or shoulder.
It ends up on the neck and shoulder though as it enters the trim die.
I know this because I adjust my lube flow rate to eliminate the hydraulic dents you get from having too much lube.
It's better to neck expand on the down-stroke (die entering the case mouth) than on the up-stroke (die leaving the case mouth).
Lyman M dies don't have decapping stems.
If you are using my process, you need something to remove media on the loading press.
You can use an M die on the size/trim shellplate, but put a decap die in station 1 when you are ready to load.
very impressive. Im not here to stroke you, but to admire an artisan. cool for sure.
Randall could you please explain a little more on how you modified the lube die. The top of your die doesnt look like the die you can buy. http://www.midwesthuntersoutlet.com/item.aspx?pid=29560
Is the metal block custom made to act as a reservoir?
The block is actually black delrin.
It clamps around the die body, allowing the flow rate adjustment screw to meter lube from the piece of plastic tubing down into the lube die body through the inlet on the side of the die.
I also re-profile the aluminum insert to increase flow rate.
I also enlarge and add more lube holes in the aluminum insert.
wow...I can't even figure out how to post pictures or get a case out of a die, let alone follow along with Randall's post....Looks like a nice setup, sounds fast...
The coolest thing I have made was a toolhead rack. Some angle iron welded to some flat stock. Nice reloading work around, Randall.
Every 100 rounds, how long does it take to add lube? Is it difficult? Maybe I will stick with the wet method.
It's not difficult, it's just disrupting because you can feel the lube going away for the last 10-20 rounds and you think you might have the next case stick in the trimmer.
With the extended lube reservoir, you don't have to worry about anything lube related.
My only question is...
... do you rent out your setup? What's your hourly rate? :D
I can see the sign now: "Randalls Reloading Recreation Dreamland"
Just think of it!
I went to APS the other day and there was a guy I met (Devin), he had his Arbor Press, Redding powder dispenser and all the dies and was reloading rounds as he shot them...Now that is ultimate load development! He machined a catch system at the bottom of his decapping die to catch the spent primmers. It was a cup that screwed onto the bottom of the die that had threads so fine that when it was done you could'nt even tell that it was 2 pieces...something like 50/inch...
Hey, but then again, I helped perform an emergency Cricothyroidotomy the other night and litterally saved a man's life, so we all have a skills/gifts.
Randall, seriously. You should consider renting out your Reloading Room....
Ok, I am re-reading your process and I was wondering if I could do a different thing...I assume that seating bullets without tumbling off lube is bad for your seater die as it will gunk it up...Too avoid media getting stuck in the primmer pocket can you prime immediately after you re-size?
I just hate having to return cases back to the tumbler because I am going to tumble after I seat a bullet anyway...(OCD)
Also, for 308 rifle, I am loading on a Redding press and I didnt want to manually prime brass so I wanted to use my casefeeder and dillon primming system but I do not have a shellplate for 308, so I tried using my 45ACP shellpate (Large Primmer) and it fits!! So I am resizing on the Redding, finish that batch and then transfering to the 650 for primming and then seating bullets after wiping down the cases on the Redding again...
For all of you drooling over Randall's setup but don't have the $$$, or aren't sure if reloading is for you, here is the poor mans setup using a single stage press:
1. Tumble brass
2. Separate from media
3. Using a full length resize/deprime die in my single stage press, I dip a case mouth in synthetic motor oil, then deprime/resize in the press. I only lube every 6th or 7th case as there is enough extra lube. I don't see any rippling this way, and a quart of oil will last you thousands and thousands of cases. Time to process 100 cases is 15 min.
4. I swap out the dies for an RCBS swager and run the brass back through the press. Takes about 15 min, including time to change the dies.
5. Back into the tumbler to remove the oil.
6. Using a shell holder mounted to my micro lathe and a hand held trimmer/case gauge, I mount a case on my lathe, trim and chamfer/debur. I then run a bent wire inside the case to check for case head separation. Remove the case, give the primer pocket a quick check and clean with a hand held primer pocket tool, and on to the next case. Takes about 30 min to process 100 cases. If you don't have a small lathe, a drill press or even a hand held drill would be just as fast.
So, using the poor boy setup, you can decap, re-size, swage, trim, and inspect 100 cases in about 1 hour of working time. Contrast that with Randall's setup where he can completely process 800-1000 cases in that same time period - and all he has to do is pull the handle. However, just buying a 650 with a case feeder and the trimmer will set you back over a grand. The relationship is pretty linear - 10x the output for 10x the $$$.
Thanks for the trimmer comparisons. One of the original reasons I wasn't going to get the Dillon is because it lacked the deburr feature.
ok i dont have the $ and am on the cheap. Tumble brass, ( i had already done it otherwise i may have done it later on), deprime/size, (beacause i didnt have a swager so i thought i would get that out of the way 1st, then I had a ch4d press mounted swager, then realized it would work on my progressive, and did not want to process 4k on a single stage swaging them, I stopped, 2 unkown to me fellow cal gunners offered the use of their super swager and that was very nice, but inconvient to me as I am at my shop most of the day. I pondered different ideas and came up with this. put a #2 or #3 phillips bit in the drill press and burnish the crimp holding the case in your hand! Today I processes 250 in about 10 minutes!! Yess! it worked great. imho.
it was a start, thanks for the size! i may have one around. The swager probably does a better job Randall? for plinking/stfh storage for later use will it matter? or will there be a reduced amount of uses? thank you in advance
The phillips bit is pushing some brass into the primer pocket as well as pushing a burr at the opening.
The countersink just cuts it away.
The swager rolls it like the phillips bit, but it rolls it both away from the primer pocket AND keeps the case head flat.
You may have to countersink those phillips-bit cases after all...
well they are primed... and loaded. but i will get a 3/8 counter sink for the next 3750rounds
hey randall, do you give tours?
i'm heading to culver city on monday and would love to check out your goods :D
so far, all i have is a tumbler and some brass to tumble lol
Great post, thanks a million for the input. Are you using a commercial tumbler to clean the brass? I suspect you must be using something other than a vibratory case cleaner for that sort of brass volume.
I process quite a bit of brass for reloading and have found the frugal method that meets my needs is a simple cement mixer filled with 50 lbs. of crushed walnut purcahsed from the pet store for $11.00. I feed the mixer .223 brass by the bucket full, tumble then sift with a homemade separator.
You got me on the primer pocket swage, I have to swage them one at a time. Some day I will live life in the fast lane and buy a 1050.
I envy you sir.
Is it possible to set a Lyman "M" Die up to not flare the brass and still size the entire length of the neck???
The expanding stem is about 5/8" long before the step.
If Dillon would offer a cutter that will chamfer and deburr like the Giraud.....nirvana!
Wonder if the Giraud cutter could be married to the Dillon setup?
Time and money.
I don't use the dillon trimmer for precision rifle ammo.
I use my redding bushing neck die and a giraud for that.
Anyone have any feedback on the FLOATING DIE TOOLHEAD?
I PMed someone about this a while back (with a few other questions), but never got a response.
Anyone have any first-hand experience with this?
In Christ: Raymond
Interesting tool head. I wonder if it makes a real difference? I always wait to lock-ring my die body (Dillon 550B) until I have it adjusted and am on the upstroke with a case in the die.
On a different topic, I see no mention of lubing the inside of the case necks (except the dip in synthetic oil idea). Where does that get done in your systems, or does it even get done? I've tried two methods, the RCBS neck brush with just a touch of case lube and the Lyman dry mica lube. Neither is ideal.
CLICK HERE to read a bit more about this tool head. (I don't want to steal this threads thunder).
Is seems to be a gret tool, and I have ordered one.
More later...on another thread!
In Christ: Raymond
It's not necessary to lube the neck when you are expanding on the down stroke as tapered expanders are more gentle than a traditional expander ball that pulls through on the up stroke.
Please take the discussion of that floating toolhead elsewhere.
It has nothing to do with this stickied topic.
You would get much better responses by simply starting a new thread for that subject.
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