A case for inspection.
SEveral days later, I withdrew one of those cases and was thunderstruck to note that it showed a circumferential crack around almost 360 degrees of the body, about 3/4 inch forward of the base! It had come within a hair of a full body separation on firing. Examining the other fired cases, I found the same mark, although not so pronounced, on most of them. There were several unfired rounds of the same lot in the box, and even casual inspection revealed the telltale stretch marks on them, indicating a weakened ring of brass at the same point on every case.
What shook me was the fact that I had not spotted that mark before I reloaded those cases. They had been polished in a Lyman case tumbler before sizing, and there was nothing to conceal the bright rings of stretched brass. I has simply been sloppy in the preloading case-inspection step, and I was lucky that one of them hadn't turned loose on firing, possibly wrecking a fine custom rifle. In my writings, I've always preached the necessity of careful case sorting and inspection, but this time I had ignored my own good advice. Sitting there at my bench, with that nearly broken case in my fingers, I suddently realized that I had permitted myself to become pretty casual in my reloading operations.
It can happen to any of us, especially after 25 or 30 years in the game, but like everybody, I'd slipped unconsciously into the habit of believing that it couldn't happen to me. Yet it almost did.
When I recovered from the shock of that realization, I resolved then and there to reexamine and tighten up my whole operation. I cleaned up my benchtop (Rule #1: Never allow the bench to become cluttered), and took a hard look at how I was doing things at every step of the reloading process . . . and discovered a lot that could be improved. I hadn't rezeroed my powder scale for months, for example, taking for granted that it was still in balance, instead checking it zero each and every time I had to weigh a few charges. I'd grown careless about having more than one powder canister on the bench at a time, and discovered that I had emptied a measure's hopperful of Unique into a can of Reloder 7. I destroyed the resultant mixture, of course, gave myself a good talking-to, and returned to the standard practice of keeping all powder canisters safely put away.
Same with primer boxes. I found partially full boxes of a couple of different types under the clutter on the bench, which would make it all too easy to grab the wrong box. It's unlikely this mistake could create a safety hazard, but it could certainly cause some mysterious results in shooting the reloaded ammo.
In addition to "neatening up" the bench, I've also cleaned up my once-well-established systems for keeping lots of cases seperate, for maintaining records, and many other steps in the process, reorganizing and going back to basic precautions and procedures. I recommend all this to every veteran handloader in the audience. Go back and think it over; I'll bet you were a lot less casul when you first began reloading, and may have grown a trifle careless as the years rolled by without a mishap. NEW RELOADING EQUIPMENT
A couple of items of equipment for the reloader have turned up recently.
One is a shellholder rack from RCBS, a simple gimmick which fills a real need for anyone who loads for several different cartridges. Made of molded plastic, the rack features a series of numbered pegs proportioned to fit the priming holes in the shellholders. The pegs are matched to the numbers of the various shellholders and the rack will hold the entire collection of RCBS holders in a small space, keeping them readily and neatly at hand.
Hornady/Pacific has introduced a new "universal" loading block in the familiar bright red, a two-sided, molded-plastic version holding 50 cases. One side holds most of the belted magnums, larger rimmed hulls, and the magnum revolver rounds, while the other side takes care of everything from the Hornet up through the standard ('06) case head plus the auto pistol rounds.
Loading blocks seem to be an unimportant accessory . . . until you try to reload a little ammunition without one! I have recently been setting up a second reloading bench at a weekend cabin, and a block was one of the minor items I'd forgotten to take along. Its absence came pretty close to rendering handloading impossible!
Most of the equipment on this secondary bench is old but good stuff which had been replaced on my regular bench by newer or improved gear. The press I chose to install, however, is one of the new-model RCBS "Reloader Specials," a relatively inexpensive "D-frame" press without some of the features (such as a priming arm) found on costlier models. This little press, although designed to fit into the low-priced end of the market, does an excellent job of routine handloading chores for metallic cartridges. It lacks the power of its cousins in the RCBS line, the Rockchucker or, of course the Big Max, but is quite up to any normal resizing operation. Priming can be done on the press, with an overhead priming device that screws into the die position, which allows a somewhat more sensitive "feel" in primer-seating because the action occurs as the point of least mechanical advantage in the handle's cycle.
Altogether, I'm very pleased with the Reloader Special press for my routine and occasional reloading at the cabin, and consider it an excellent value.
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|Publication:||Guns & Ammo|
|Date:||May 1, 1984|
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