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Thread: What criteria do you use to discard brass for reloading?

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    Member Rickf1985's Avatar
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    What criteria do you use to discard brass for reloading?

    I am getting back into reloading after many, many years away from it. Actually when I was doing it before I was helping my dad more than doing the whole job myself. He is gone now and I have all of his old equipment and some more modern equipment and most of what I am reloading is still the same as back then. 30-06. I have been going through the hundreds and hundreds of cases he left and most are in pretty good shape other than having 50 years of dirt and dust on them. He also had many boxes of loaded surplus ammo. This question pertains to both the empty cartridges and also the loaded ones. What constitutes a "bad" cartridge? I have quite a few with discoloration on them but it is smooth and no sign of actual corrosion. I also have a few with actual corrosion that you can feel as a rough spot on the cartridge. These I know are bad but what about the stained ones?

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    Contributing Member CINDERS's Avatar
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    There is a plethora of reasons why one would discard a case from loose primer pockets (Hot loads) split necks, imminent head separation, die incidents where you crush them (done that a couple of times) web out of spec measured just above the extractor groove, thin neck wall and on & on it goes. You just have to measure & inspect and if they are to close to the max spec I ditch them length is easy just TTL its the primer, web & neck I look at if the shoulder moves to far forward bump it back with a body die or FLS it, neck turn if you have to or if your running a tight neck chamber, I find that if your in two minds about a case best flatten it with a hammer then bin it thats what I do why take the risk.

    Pull the loaded rounds if its not stated what they have in them unless its for the same rifle I am not saying your father could not reload it just a peace of mind thing but if your confident and the rounds are clean etc go for it tumble the empties and if you have a sonic cleaner do the inside then when finished go over them with a length gauge and micrometer. Obviously you dont tumble loaded rounds lightly does it with OOOO steel wool will bring them up.
    Last edited by CINDERS; 02-07-2020 at 02:53 AM.

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    Advisory Panel browningautorifle's Avatar
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    I've used cases that were brown in color and completely dark. If I get one shot before it cracks it's fine. It needs to either crack or show signs of a pending separation to go gash bin...then I save them and turn them in for yellow brass scrap price. Any of the mentioned permanent damages too...
    Regards, Jim

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    Really Senior Member Sunray's Avatar
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    "...boxes of loaded surplus ammo..." That may or may not be reloadable(might be collector ammo too). Depends on the type of primer. Berdan or Boxer primers. Berdan would be primarily European made. Some .30 AP had Berdan primers too. The downside is that you can't tell one from the other by looking at the outside. Some head stamps will tell you though.
    "...imminent head separation..." Look for a stretch line near the case head. On an empty case feel with a piece of wire on the inside near the case head.
    "...50 years of dirt and dust..." A hose or, literally, a bath in plain water will fix that. Then tumble as per normal. You may want to consider making a large capacity tumbler. Buy a big bag of crushed walnut shells(sold as small pet bedding) and look on-line for plans. Easier than it sounds. Think pail with lid and either an electric rotor or vibrator. Plan 'B' is a bucket and plain white vinegar. And a cookie sheet and your oven.
    "...few with discoloration..." If that's at the shoulder, it's highly likely it's just unpolished manufacturing annealing. The military didn't care if the cases were shiney or not.
    A stain will depend on what caused the stain. Plus a certain amount of what colour it is. Black isn't horrible. Black is oxidization and will come off in the tumbler.
    Serious corrosion, green usually, is the copper coming out of the alloy. Pitch those and the ones you can feel as a rough spot. Pitch any with any cracks. Dents are not ruined either.
    Dents on the shoulder are caused by too much lube. They'll will come out upon the next firing with no fuss. A lightly dented case mouth can be fixed when you resize. If the dent is too much for the expander button to fit, needle nosed pliers used as a mandrel will open the mouth enough.
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    I like the looks of the brass that comes out of the liquid and pin tumblers. Not so much for the shine but the fact it is so clean inside and out. Easier on dies and I am sure that has to have some effect on accuracy when the inside of the case is spotless each time as opposed to different amounts of residue each time. And the bullets have to be seating more consistently on brass then on residue. Winter is a good time for me to do that since I can lay out the wet brass on my wood stove for a couple hours and done. Summer is a different story. The missus is not going to be happy with me cooking brass plus that just stresses the AC even more with the heat from the stove. Is there any reason you could not rinse the brass in isopropyl alcohol after the tumble and then just lay it out to dry? The alcohol would get rid of the water and the alcohol will evaporate pretty quickly.

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    Member Rickf1985's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sunray View Post
    "...boxes of loaded surplus ammo..." That may or may not be reloadable(might be collector ammo too).
    I have had several people mention the collectible thing to me but when I offer it to them the price I am offered is the same or real close to what I would have to pay to buy more ammo to shoot. So, as much as I want to support the collectible side of the hobby i also want to shoot the hobby side of it. If the ammo is so collectible then people would pay enough to preserve it while giving the person selling it reason to go to all the trouble. I did screw up by opening two boxes of Utah marked ammo dated 42. I will admit to that one. I am not going to shoot the ammo but it seems the only thing people wanted was the sealed box label.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rickf1985 View Post
    If the ammo is so collectible then people would pay enough to preserve it while giving the person selling it reason to go to all the trouble.
    Agreed, that puts the collector argument to rest.
    Regards, Jim

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    Contributing Member usabaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve762 View Post
    If you do not want to tumble try soaking the fired cases in Dawn and Leni-Shine over night.
    Just be cautious with the amount of Lenishine used. This stuff is a citric acid and will go after the zinc in the brass.
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    Contributing Member CINDERS's Avatar
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    Some collectors are scammers trying to drive you down so they get a good deal, I pay a fair price for stuff do the research on going prices and go from there pity your there I'd be there in a flash to have a gecko I did get taken for a ride from a friend some years ago who offered me a bulk lot for $XXX.oo's as he said it was a substantial lot (Not) and when I had sorted it it had a few choice pieces (3-4) out of 200 the rest were well bloody shite.
    There was a chap who passed a little while ago an old gunsmith and had a really good selection of rare cartridges and ordnence very nice indeed I offered him a substantial sum of $4 thousand dollars well above what it was actually worth but I really wanted that collection it really had some very rare gear, in the end my friend swooped on it paying half what I offered and then skited about it when I asked him how much he paid.

    Bit wiser now.....I am still friends with the chap and have brought other gear from him but call his bluff and walk if its to high he usually comes around. If I find stuff I shut my trap until I can poke it under his nose I mean at last count he had over 200 rifles & shotties in his collection!

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    For the rinse or wet tumble use about 1/8 teaspoon of lemi-shine in a pint to a quart of hot water with a good squirt of dawn dish soap. I have never soaked them overnight due to the citric acid in the lemi shine. I have wet tumbled very dirty range brass in the above solution for 30 minutes and my brass comes out clean and shiny. After the brass dries I dry tumble it in a vibratory tumbler with crushed walnut shell media with a capfull of mineral spirits or paint thinner and a capfull of Nu-finish car polish for 3 hours and it shines the brass and protects it from tarnish. I have 30-06 brass in zip-loc bags that went through this process a couple years ago and they are still clean and quite shiny. I use the Harbor Freight rock tumblers for the wet tumbling and it works great.
    As for your dads reloads, I would clean lightly with 0000 steel wool and inspect very carefully, then fire the ones that pass inspection. As others have said reject for any major defects, cracks, corrosion that is rough to the touch, incipient head separation etc. Only you can decide on the condition, if you aren't sure of the reliability pull down and check, or scrap.
    A while back a friend gave me some old brass he had from old hunts in 30-30 and 30-06, they all were pretty dark with some green on them. I used my tumble process above, they came out very clean. Loaded and fired with no problem. I would not advise someone else to load them because they don't know the quality of these cases. Your mileage may vary. Bottom line, if in doubt, pull it down and scrap the brass.


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