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How To Reload Rifle Brass

In the previous article of this series, we looked at the best reloading brass cartridges for handguns. Today, we’re going to take a look at the best reloading brass cartridges for rifles.

Rifle Cartridges

The simplest of all rifle calibers to reload are rimed or belted, straight wall cartridges intended for use in a single shot rifle. Typical examples would include the .45-70 and .458 Winchester Magnum as applied to a Ruger No. 1 rifle. These are reloaded much like a standard revolver case, except that no bullet crimping is required for use in a single shot rifle. (I dislike crimping bullets in cases as it works the case mouth excessively and shortens case life.) Reloading doesn't get any easier than that!

Rimmed and belted cases have a huge advantage over rimless bottleneck cases in that it is basically impossible to mess-up the head spacing. It is possible, by improper resizing, to degrade headspace of any cartridge that headspaces on the shoulder, which can potentially create a hazardous situation.

Unfortunately, rimless bottleneck rifle cases that headspace on the shoulder are the most common type today. The most reloader-friendly of these headspace on a fairly sharp, but not abrupt, 15-30-degree shoulder that is adequate in area to easily maintain proper headspace against the blow of a firing pin, have long necks (in excess of one caliber), and use a full diameter head and moderate body taper. That is about as good as it gets among rimless, bottleneck rifle cartridges as far as the reloader is concerned.

Actually, most popular rifle calibers are pretty easy to reload. The 6mm Rem., for example, is preferred over the .243 Win. by reloading purists, due primarily to its longer neck and slightly greater case capacity, but I have never had any problem reloading very accurate .243 cartridges.

Bottleneck belted magnum cases are supposed to be less desirable for reloading than standard rimless types due to the possibility of head expansion immediately in front of the belt, where it is difficult to fully resize. So are cartridges used in rifles whose bolts lock at the rear, due to the possibility of case stretching. But I think that these considerations are mostly theoretical. I have reloaded belted magnums and cartridges for rear-locking Winchester and Marlin lever action rifles (mainly the .30-30) for about 40 years without any problem.

On the other hand, I generally full length resize my cases, as most must be able to feed reliably in more than one rifle. And I never exceed published maximum loads. Perhaps that is why I have less trouble than some reloaders who just neck size their cases or are trying to reload super powerful or super accurate cartridges tailored for a specific rifle that are out of spec in some area. Such reloads are much more likely to cause problems in another rifle than factory loads or reloads that adhere to all SAAMI or CIP specifications.

So, as regards bottleneck rifle cartridges for reloading, the easiest to reload are probably standard rimless cases (rather than semi-rimmed, belted, or rebated rim numbers) with a neck greater than one caliber in length and a broad shoulder with an angle between 15 and 30 degrees. It is also helpful if the chosen cartridges are ones for which a wide variety of bullets are available, and a number of powders are suitable.

For the most uniform and reliable ignition, cartridges that require an action no longer than standard length, and a case capacity no greater than the standard length are desirable. Ideal cases should have enough body taper for easy entry into a resizing die, but not so much that case stretching is accelerated.