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Temperamental cartridge cases; all calibers are not easy to reload - here's why.

Are some metallic cartridge "better (e.g.: less temperamental as to pressures or with some mechanicla advantages) for reloading than others? I believe the answer is "yes," especially for the neophyte or inexperienced handloader.

For example, I've learned to approach rounds having very sharp shoulders, very short necks, or belts, with caution, not necessarily for reasons of safety, but because they present certain complications in reloading. The problems are not great, but they can be at least a minor nuisance. Take the sharp shoulder (often thought of as an extremely "modern" feature), as seen in the .300 Savage, .284 WCF, and a host o f populr wildcats. The problem here seems to be that the shoulder angle is so sharp that it cannot properly support the neck against the thrust of bullet-seating. The shoulder doesn't collapse noticeably, but it yields enough to allow the seated bullet to be out of alignment with the axis of the bore when chambered.

The result is nothing more than a minor loss of accuracy, not great enough to cause a miss on big game, but potentially troublesome when trying to determine the maximum accuracy potential of a given rifle. A fixture for measuring bullet "run-out," such as the Brown Precision "Little Wigler," will often identify the problem, which may be much greater with certain lots and brands of brass than with others.

Short necks (also a prevalent feature in modern case designs, such as the .223 Rem., .243 WCF, .308 WCF, 7mm-08 Rem., 7mm Rem. and .300 Win. Magnums, and many others) sometimes, with certain bullets, offer too little grip on the bullet, which can create small variations in ignition, and may also fail to provide goods, coaxial bullet alignment. Short necks also severely limit a handloader's latitude in bullet seating depths, making it difficult or impossible to seat light slugs close enough to touching the lands in the chamber's throat to achieve the accuracy of which the barrel may be capable, and often require the bases of long, heavy bullets to be seated so far past the juncture of case neck and shoulder that they encroach badly on available powder space.

Belts on brass cases are the work of the devil, in my opinion. They have value only in headspacing otherwise rimless cases in something like a double-barreled rifle--which was h ow the idea got started in the first place. They would, as is sometimes claimed, offer more precise headspacing in repeaters, if the thickness of the belts were held to very close tolerances, but a few minutes with a micrometer and a batch of belted brass of recent make will convince anybody that it isn't. In practical terms, they do not strengthen the case head, which is what many shooters think they're for. Tests show that primer pockets in belted cases expand at about the same pressure levels that open up pockets in ordinary rimless cases.

Okay, so the belt contributes nothing of value to a case ... but does it do any harm? Not necessarily in and of itself, but it is a fact that manufacturers of rifles for belted magnums have not held chamber tolerances at the shoulder to anything close to the tolerances routinely held in chambers for rimless rounds ... obviously, since rimless rounds actually headspace on the shoulder itself. The result is that belted cases in many otherwise excellent rifles tend to stretch excessively in the shoulder region upon firing. This is no problem when firing factory ammo, of course, but when the reloader full-length resizes in the usual manner, the shoulder is set back, only to be stretched again on the next firing, and so forth. In such rifles, three to five reloadings is rather better-than-average case life, whereas in many rimless, unbelted cartridges that number may very well be closer to 20.

there is a way around all this, and it is to rest very carefully the sizing die so that the belted case actually headspaces on the shoulder, just like a rimless case. Thereafter, the belt does no harm but becomes a functionless appendage on the brass.

Cartridge designed to work at or beyond their so-called "bore capacity"--which means those having a relatively small caliber and relatively large powder capacity, such as the .220 Swift, .25-06 Rem. and most of the smallbore magnums--can be a rifle temperamental, despite denials you may have read by devotees. By "temperamental," I mean that as loads approach maximum levels, pressures sometimes show unpredictable and startling jumps, especially with certain powders. The way to stay out of trouble in these cases is simply to approach expected maximum charge weights very cautiously, preferably by half-grain increments, to be very alter to any and all pressure symptoms, and to accept the rifle's verdict as final, rather than trying to reach some predetermined velocity level come hell or high water. The high water may not descend upon you, but you'll sure think hell has if y ou blow a primer blady or, worse, a case head!

I cannot resist pointing out that these precautions are the very same ones which will keep you out of trouble with any cartridge, with any kind of load, if followed religiously. Such practices are the mark of the experienced handloader.

What, then, is my idea of the perfect cartridge with which a beginner can learn the reloading hobby, the "friendliest" and least troublesome of all? There are several, equally good, but probably the most common one is the plain, old .30-06! The case design is excellent, the neck is plenty long, and the powder capacity is nearly perfect for the bore volume and today's propellants. It's very flexible, meaning that it can be loaded down to reduced velocities very comfortably, there's an unbelievable assortment of bullets available, it performs like a trained pony with cast bullets, and it's about as untemperamental as a cartridge can get.

There are others just about as good, for all the same reasons. The 7x57mm Mauser is foremost among 'em, and the .257 Roberts and .270 WCF are two more. One of my favorites (and the one I learned most of my metallic reloading on) is the .222 Remington. Strangely, only the .222 Remington. Strangely, only the .222 of this group appeared later than sometime during the 1920s (and it dates back 33 years), and the oldest one--the 7mm Mauser--was born in 1892!

Could be that the ballisticians of the last couple of generations knew a thing or two about cartridge case design, back when "space age" referred to a couple of teenagers necking in the swing on the open venanda! Anyway, a newcomer to handloading in 1985 can't do better for openers than to shake hands with one of the old-timers mentioned above. They teach gently.
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Author:Wootters, John
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Feb 1, 1985
Previous Article:Modern guns - identification and values.
Next Article:Charles M. Russell.

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