Milsurp brass rifle reloading - complete process with photos
This is a discussion on Milsurp brass rifle reloading - complete process with photos within the Reloading forums, part of the Sniping Related category; Reloading Rifle Ammunition
Loading for the M1 Garand using Greek surplus military brass.
Hello, there! I know this has been done here before, but I'm ...
Milsurp brass rifle reloading - complete process with photos
Reloading Rifle Ammunition
Loading for the M1 Garand using Greek surplus military brass.
Hello, there! I know this has been done here before, but I'm trying to put together a PDF of how to save some money and have some fun reloading once-fired cases for your
So I thought I'd post it here for comments and suggestions before I "publish" it. This was prompted by Tmhouston's post on getting into reloading (glad he did) and by my giving lessons to my brother in law this past weekend. I thought I'd document the process. Any and all suggestions are welcome.
Many thanks to Madgunsmith, Jeff Dorr (RIP), and others here for helping me start out in this wonderful hobby. You put me on the right path!
First came the fun part! Shooting up some CMP Greek milsurp .30-06 ammo in my M1.
Now uber-clean brass is not really necessary, really just wiping the outside with a damp rag is fine. But what self-respecting shooter wants his reloads to look like, well, milsurp ammo? So into the tumbler they go. It doesn't really tumble, it is a vibratory cleaner you fill with treated, crushed walnut shells or corn cob bits. As it vibrates, it polishes the brass. Give it a couple hours for a really good shine! Tip: that's an ordinary dryer sheet you see in the middle. Cut one in half and stuff it in with the media, it will absorb a lot of the dirt and make your media last longer.
OK, now you have some nice clean brass to work with.
Now, you have to knock out the primers. With normal ammo, you can resize the case and knock out the primer in one step (which you will see later) but milsurp primers are crimped in place. That means they have had some of the brass around them pinched into the primer cup to keep the primers from backing out under the stresses from running through belt-fed automatic weapons. This causes two problems; first, the primers can be very difficult to knock out, and second, the primer pocket may be deformed creating difficulty seating a new primer.
So, while I would normally use just a sizing/depriming die, today I will be using the Lee Univeral Decapping Die shown here.
We screw the die into the reloading press, in this case the excellent Lee Classic Cast Press. You see the little pin protruding below the bottom of the die? When we raise the case, that pin will push out the old primer.
Now we raise the ram, running the case up into the decapping die . . .
No more primer!
Now, we have to remove the crimp so we can reliably seat a new primer in the primer pocket. You can either do this with a special piloted cutter, or you can 'swage' it (press the metal back using a force-fit punch) which is my preferred method. This little device is the Dillon Super Swage 600, the premiere tool for the job. The empty case fits over a locator rod . . .
Then you lower the case and force the swaging head into the primer pocket by operating the tool's handle.
Note: Once this has been done, it never needs to be done again, so next time through the process, I will resize and decap with the normal sizing die and dispense with this swaging operation.
continued - Part 2
Now, we want to ensure the primers seat properly, because the nature of old military rifles like the M1 are such that there is always the danger of a 'slam fire'. The firing pin in the M1, and the M16 for that matter, are not retained by a spring like they are in bolt rifles or pistols. When the bolt slams home on a new round, the firing pin can run forward and strike the primer a little, and if that happens before the bolt is locked to the breech, this can be a very dangerous thing. So always use hard cup primers like CCI or Winchester (do NOT use Federal Match primers in an M1!), and seat them fully home. To ensure they are seated fully, we need to clean the carbon residue out of the primer pocket. You use a simple device like this which has a head like a flat screwdriver. This is a Lee primer pocket cleaner.
You insert it into the primer pocket and give a few twists and voila! A nice clean primer pocket you can seat a new primer into deeply.
Before we prime, however, we must resize the brass. When it fires, the pressures force the case walls out to the chamber walls, and although they then contract a bit the case is now tightly formed to the chamber for that rifle. For a bolt gun, this can be a very good thing, aiding accuracy, but for a semi-automatic like the M1, this tight fit can cause feeding problems. So the brass is run into a resizing die which forces the brass back to proper original dimensions. You do this for bolt guns, as well, but you use a special measuring tool to ensure you resize the minimum amount necessary, setting the shoulder of the case back only a couple thousandths of an inch to take advantage of that tight fit.
First, however, we have to lubricate the case or it could get stuck inside the die. Bad situation! Here I am using a convenient spray lubricant (Hornady One-Shot) from the side on the lower half of the cases to avoid getting lube inside the primer pockets. We don't want the new primers falling out. I did not photograph this, but next, I will turn the cases right side up in the plastic reloading block and spray the top halves from a steeper angle to get some lube inside the case necks.
Here is the resizing die. As you can see it has a decapping pin, and we could have eliminated the separate decapping step if we were not using military ammo with crimped primers.
The die is screwed into the press, and the brass is run up into it, forcing the case back to original size and shape. There is a machined ball on the decapping pin which will pull out and straighten the neck on the way out to prepare it for accepting the new bullet later.
As brass is fired, expands, and then is resized, the length may gradually increase, creating issues. So we have to trim it to length. This only needs to be done every several firings, not every time. I use a special shell holder that mounts in a drill. There is a cutter tool that you screw a pilot of specific length into. You clamp the shell into the holder, insert the pilot into the shell, run the drill on low to trim it to size. The pilot indexes on the shell holder through the empty primer pocket.
Here are the tools. The cutter with the .30-06-length pilot is on the left, the thing on the right is to chamfer the trimmed edge so it won't catch the bullet later. All tools here are from Lee.
Chamfering the inside of the neck
And chamfering the outside of the neck
continued - Part 3
Now we have to insert the new primers into the primer pocket in the base of the shells. This is a Lee hand priming tool and is very popular among reloaders. It is simple and reliable. I am including these photos because I recommend the Lee Breech Lock Anniversary Kit as a great, inexpensive starter kit. However, I prefer to use the priming mechanism made for my Lee Classic Cast press which you will see below. The hand loading tools from Lee, RCBS, Hornady, etcetera are very popular, however, so I thought I'd include these shots.
Here it is with the clear cover removed next to a tray of 100 Winchester Large Rifle Primers.
You place the primers in the tray like so . . .
But some are not facing the right way. The little ridges in the tray are there to correct this. You give the tool a gentle shake and the primer edges catch the ridges and soon they are all facing up for loading, like so.
Replacing the clear cover to keep the primers in place, you shake one down to the loading station under the shell holder like so.
Now WEARING ANSI APPROVED IMPACT RESISTANT SAFETY GLASSES you place a shell in the shell holder and seat a primer using slow, steady thumb pressure on the paddle to raise the priming ram and seat the primer. Face the tool away from you. You should wear the glasses for the rest of the reloading tasks, since you will be handling primed cases, later with powder in them. Your eyesight is not replaceable, so please do wear the glasses for the rest of the reloading process until your ammo is finished and ready for packaging.
Unfortunately the camera focused on my fingers, so this is a little blurry, but here you see a properly seated primer. You should inspect it head-on to see that it seated straight and not crooked or twisted (or upside down--it happens), then from the side, sighting along the base of the cartridge to make sure the primer is seated below flush. Even with hard-cup primers, if they are proud of the base, the risk of a slam-fire is increased.
You can also prime on the press, which is what I prefer to do. You put a special priming lever arm inside the ram of the reloading press like so. You then load a primer into the cup on top of the device. There is a similar primer device for RCBS, Hornady, and other brands of reloading presses. Some have primer loading devices, but I find them unnecessary and bothersome, so I just drop a primer in with my fingers.
Inserting a shell into the shellholder, you lower the ram by raising the handle and the lever tilts back into the ram, and the primer is seated home in the primer pocket of the shell as the ram pulls the shell down over the primer. Very easy.
continued Part 4
OK, now you have a loading block full of cleaned, resized and primed cases. Next we need to charge them with powder. For this you use a tool called a powder measure, here the excellent Lee Perfect Powder measure.
Dang! I forgot to get a picture of the powder measure in action! Here's a pirated one.
You will hear a lot of discussion about Lee making 'cheap' gear. It certainly is inexpensive, but it works. Very well. I find their scale bothersome, so I replaced it. But I have to tell you their powder measure is ridiculously consistent, at least with military rifle powders. You have to work it in running a few hoppers of powder through it to coat it with graphite and remove static (but you have to do this with other brands, too). But once you have it prepped and are used to it, it will throw charges +/- 0.1 grain all day long. While I replaced their scale, I have had no desire to replace their powder measure. It is made of nylon and other plastics, but powder is not heavy and it is plenty durable and I don't have to worry about any rusting parts. However, if you feel compelled to spend 3, 4, or even 8 times as much on a heavier powder measure, by all means go ahead.
The powder goes in the hopper in the top and the micrometer looking device is a tube with a volume adjusting device. They are made more accurate by use of a "powder baffle", a bent metal plate inserted into the hopper so that the weight of the powder above the drop tube is constant. As long as powder is kept loaded above the baffle, this aids throwing consistent charges. This one is a Lyman, I think, that I ordered from Midway. But I used a piece of coffee can I cut with tin snips prior to this and that worked, too. I raise the tube, tap the measure 2-3 times to settle it, then drop it jiggling the handle at the bottom to make sure I get all the powder out.
Once properly adjusted, using a powder scale, the measure will throw accurate powder charges by volume and you need not weigh each charge. However, I was working up a load (loading 4 different weights) for firing over a chronograph to determine optimum charge weight, so I did weigh every charge. When making precision ammo, folks often do weigh every charge. Here is a powder scale with a powder trickler behind it. It is a Dillon product, but is very similar to the RCBS 505 scale, which I also recommend.
By the way, if you get the Lee kit to start out, as I did, their scale is also inerringly accurate. No other scale is any more accurate (I checked with check weights), but if you need reading glasses as I do, the Lee is a royal PITA to read. Once you get the hang of its quirky readout, it does work. But these more professional scales are much more enjoyable to use.
You can see in the photo above the charge is slightly underweight. The powder trickler has a threaded tube in it, and you twist the tube with your fingers. The threads catch individual grains of powder and trickle it into the pan very slowly so you can come up to precisely accurate weight.
You dump the powder into a case using a simple funnel
Now, we need the bullet! Another die is used to seat the bullet to the proper depth, using the screw seen on the top of the die in this photo. Place bullet on shell . . .
Raise the ram, running the shell with bullet fully into the bullet seating die, then check for proper seating depth with a caliper. You start out with the bullet a little high, then gradually screw down the adjustment until you get to the proper seating depth. By the way, your measurements will vary because the nose end of the bullets is not precisely the same. The seating die pushes on the bullet a little further down from the tip (on the ogive, to use the technical term, around the circumference of the bullet in the part curving up to the tip), and irregularities in the nose of the bullets will cause a few thousandths difference. Measure a few and if you are bracketing your desired measurement, call it good enough. I was aiming at a length of 3.285" and I turned my bullet adjuster down just a tad after this measurement.
The last step in the process is applying an optional, mild crimp to the neck of the case around the bullet. This aids in consistency of the ammo. Some feel this is not necessary, others feel it adds value . . . I'm not smart enough to know, but I use it on all ammo. I think you definitely want to use it on ammo for autoloaders like the M1, although it is clearly less beneficial if you are using a bolt gun. This die has a split collet in the top and when you run the shell up into it the collet quarters compress onto the case neck with the bullet protruding out the top as seen here. This is the Lee Factory Crimp Die included in their Pacesetter 3-die sets.
continued Part 5
Now, here is the finished ammo. Remember I said I was trying 4 different powder loads? Properly segregate the rounds and label the charge weights. This is precise business, and it pays to be a little anal.
Anyway, ready to go to the range!
And, now for the REALLY fun part!
A couple of helpful tips . . . get yourself one of those small fishing tackle boxes with the slide out drawers for storing things like the shell trimmer parts and pilots, the primer arms for the press, any other optional tools you acquire like neck brushes. It helps to keep things organized. You can even see I labeled the .30-06 pilot for the trimmer.
Other things I will tell you . . . unless you are an AWESOME rifleman (I am not), I would dissuade you from buying expensive, custom-honed sizing dies, 'competition' seating dies, meplat trimmers, neck turning equipment, and all sorts of fancy gear. It may work . . . but lots of successful competitors use none of these things. In fact, one fellow held a benchrest championship record that stood for 6-7 years using an old Lee hand reloading tool and a hammer.
I'm not saying those things are worthless, and if you appreciate fine tools and the process, then go ahead and get them. But the law of diminishing returns sets in early and the cost of minute gains goes up exponentially in this game. Look at the following target.
That is a 3-shot, 0.40" 100 yard group. I loaded those rounds on an old Lee Anniversay kit, with all Lee gear, including their scale. I had replaced nothing from the kit when I loaded those rounds. They were fired from a box-stock Savage 10FP. If I spend hundreds, maybe a thousand dollars more on all the fancy gear, I doubt I would have been able to shrink the group, and if I did, by how much? Say for the sake of argument (I don't know that I would argue this) I could close that group from 0.40" to 0.30". I might have spent $900 on the extra tools to do it, whereas I had spent only about $100 on the Lee kit to load those rounds.
Start out modest and replace things as you feel you need or want to. I really wanted to upgrade the Lee scale. I have no desire, even today, to upgrade the Lee powder measure. I did not need to upgrade the press, but I love the feel of the heavy cast iron press, and I also loved getting rid of the hand primer. Priming on the press is much more convenient and speeds up the process.
I highly recommend the Lee Breech Lock Anniversary kit for starters. If you want to put together your own 'kit' rather than the prepackaged kits, I would recommend the following.
John's Reloading 'Starter' Kit
Lyman Turbo 1200 tumbler if you like clean brass. I use their green treated corn cob media.
Lee Classic Cast Press (RCBS Rockchucker is fine, but is not higher quality and costs more. It is a fine press, however.)
Lee Pacesetter dies (RCBS are fine dies, again they cost a little more, but not much.)
Hornady One-Shot case lube (Lee, RCBS, anyone elses lube is fine, the pads are fine, but the spray stuff is just so convenient, I don't try to save bucks there. Splurge on a couple cans of One-Shot. You deserve it!)
Lee case trimmer and pilots, Lee chamfer tool
RCBS neck brush
Lee Perfect Powder Measure (or the RCBS Uniflow, an excellent measure, reasonably priced. I seriously doubt the $200 measures will be better than the RCBS. Do use a powder baffle, though, it matters). Lee or other powder funnel.
RCBS Model 505 beam scale (electronics are not more accurate, people just think they are because they read out to so many decimal places. A good beam scale calibrated with check weights, is inerringly accurate--it's physics, folks. electronics may be more convenient, however).
A couple of MTM universal reloading trays
Dillon Super Swage 600 If you are going to use once-fired surplus brass (or cases from surplus ammo you have fired), you can get inexpensive primer pocket trimmers that cut away the pocket crimps. These work and are inexpensive, but I am a big fan of the Dillon device.
A good reloading manual. I enjoyed Lee's. I've seen Hornady's and like it. I have not seen others. Single caliber Loadbooks are helpful, too.
That would be the kit I recommend . . . not too expensive, sticking to Lee stuff where appropriate, upgrading things like the scale (and powder measure if you like). One optional device I would recommend for bolt gun ammo making is the RCBS Precision Mic. This helps you minimize the amount of resizing you do, keeping your cases closer to their fire-formed shape and extending the life of your brass.
Here is my reloading bench as it is outfitted now, except I've replaced the scale.
Have fun reloading!
JC, what an excellent and clear tutorial. +1 on the Lee dies, you can't beat flat $4 shipping,either.
Awesome write up! The stickies by Madgunsmith got me started with reloading and a family friend supplied me with some old equipment. But I have to say the pictures look beautiful and are extremely helpful.
I have not thought of the powder baffle for the lee perfect powder measure. That will probably save me some time trickling the powder up to weight.
The only thing you might like to add is that you should use steady pressure when using the lee hand primer and not slam it home.
"Heavy is good, heavy is reliable. If it doesn't work you can always hit them with it."
Excellent point, I'll make that change now, thanks!
Originally Posted by TheSkew
I noted in online photos that most "Bench Rest" powder measures were that company's regular measure with a powder baffle and maybe a different tube micrometer. I found it makes a difference. Here is mine,
http://www.midwayusa.com/viewproduct/?p ... ber=699516
You bend it for tight fit. The sniped coffee can lid worked well, too, I don't really know why I bought this. :roll: Put a $9 baffle in a $21 powder measure?
Great write up!
I do the same thing, reloading CMP surplus ammo for my CMP M1, with mostly lee equipment.
The only difference is, I haven't found the greek crimp to be strong enough to warrant using a separate decapping die. I resize/decap, clean (ultrasonic), then remove the crimp with an RCBS or lyman crimp remover, chamfer/debur, then load.
I also don't crimp, although I guess I should, but I've never had any problems.
Care to share some of your loads? I've had good luck with 46gr IMR4064 and a 168gr Nosler BTHP. Shoots about 1" @ 100 yds from a service grade Garand.
I did not try to decap with the resizing die, but I appreciate your observation. Next batch, I'll skip that separate step.
I would not say you 'should' crimp, reloaders seem to be divided on the topic, and I'm certainly not the expert others are here, I still consider myself to be an 'advanced beginner'. The way I look at it, however, it can't hurt. It may not be necessary, but it should not cause any problems, so I do it.
I would like to try your load, I could not locate my chrony for my range trip last weekend. :x I loaded 47.0, 47.5, 48.0 and 48.5 grains of IMR-4064 using Sierra Match King 168 gr. BTHPs, Winchester Large Primers, and seated to a C.O.L. of 3.285". The group that looked and felt the best was the 47.5 grain load.
This was my first attempt loading for the Garand. Mostly I've loaded for my Savage 10FP in .308 and .45 ACP.
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