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How To Check Quality When Reloading Brass Casings

There are several tell-tale signs that will tell you when you should discard your reloading brass. Some signs are more visible while others require some in-depth inspections. In the end, if you have any doubt whatsoever about a case’s ability to withstand the pressure of being fired again, toss it. The last thing you want is for a case to fail during firing and destroy your gun or risk your health.

As mentioned in previous post, the reloading brass case is the only part of the cartridge that can be reused. The reason for this is simple; it is constructed of a material that is malleable, meaning it can be reshaped and resized to be fired multiple times. However, like all good things in life, even reloading brass as an end to its usefulness. The question, then, arises; how do you know when your reloading brass is no longer reloadable?

When reloading brass the brass becomes brittle

With reloading brass, one of it’s upsides is also the reason for it failing. Brass becomes brittle as it is being worked and reworked. When the round if fired from a gun, the pressure from the powder heats the brass, causing it to expand to fit the gun’s chamber; this is one way of working brass. Another way reloading brass is worked during the reloading process is when the case is pressed through the die and resized.

Signs of failure

In a bottle necked cartridge, the case mouth and shoulder get most of the action inside the resizing die. Usually you will find that when a cartridge has become too brittle to withstand that reworking, it will develop a hairline crack in the case mouth, either at the edge of the case mouth, or just below it.

Cases with a split in the neck cannot be used any further and should be immediately taken out of commission. The straight walled cases develop their splits at the case mouth, usually when they are sent up into the flaring die. This is the portion of the straight walled case that sees the most action.

Checking the quality of brass

Brass casings should be inspected several times throughout the reloading process. Where many reloaders fail is only inspecting the case before cleaning it and never again. Rigorous inspection of your cases, before, during and after loading, will ensure that things stay safe. I hold the cases up to a light source to check for splits and do my best to keep a good record of how many firings a group of cases has seen.

Case Head Separation

We’ve discussed that brass is malleable, and the brass in the case tends to ‘flow’ forward, toward the case mouth, upon repeated firing. The area of the case body about 1/3rd up from the rim tends to become thin as the brass flows forward. What can happen is terrible: the brass case can actually rip in half in the chamber or the firearm. This can be deadly.

Inspecting case head separation is easy. Looking at the portion of the brass between the rim and middle of the cartridge, look for a shiny ring where the brass is thinning. As the brass thins, it becomes shinier than the rest of the case

How many times can reloaded brass be fired

In bottle necked cases, depending on the pressures and velocities, four or five firings is usually where I become overly suspicious and start to see split necks. Pistols and straight walled rifle cases generally tend to operate at lower velocities and pressures, so their useful life will tend to be a bit longer.