Case processing is a very important step in successful reloading. While there are many procedures involved in case prep, here are some important basics that should be considered. Case cleaning, trimming, post-trim deburring, and primer pocket cleaning are all very essential in the case prep process. In order to produce top quality reloads, you’ll want to ensure that the case is free of dirt and debris and that it is sized correctly. You must also remove the primer (usually done during the sizing operation) and ensure that the primer pocket is ready to have a new primer seated.
A dull looking case is of no consequence. A dirty case, however, may reduce reload quality. A dirty case is more difficult to resize and may scratch reloading dies and/or chambers requiring premature die or firearm replacement. Cases can be cleaned in several ways. Case tumblers, either vibratory or rotary can make some mighty dirty brass look like new. Case tumblers are available to fit almost every budget and case volume need. Ultrasonic cleaners also do a great job and will clean out primer pockets as well as the inside of the case.
Cases stretch when they are fired, particularly bottleneck rifle cases. Case bodies are often shortened when resized, but their necks tend to stretch during this process. After a single firing and sizing, a case may stretch past the point of being suitable for reloading. Under some circumstances, a case may be reloaded and fired four or five times before its length exceeds the maximum allowable dimension. In any event, there will often be a point at which the case must be trimmed back to a workable dimension before it can be reloaded. Handgun cases seldom stretch like rifle cases; however, trimming may still be required in order to make them all a uniform length. Trimmers require the use of a pilot of appropriate caliber to keep cases positively aligned during the trimming process. Some case trimmers require the use of an appropriate shell holder. Precise case length is critical to uniform crimps and consistent neck tension, leading to better accuracy and smooth, reliable functioning.
During trimming, burrs form on the inside and outside of the case mouth. A deburring tool quickly gets the case smooth and ready for reloading. Cases should be deburred for the first reloading, especially inside the case mouth, even if they are not trimmed. After decapping, inspection of the primer pocket will reveal a hard, crusty, black deposit. If allowed to build to excessive amounts, this deposit can interfere with uniform primer seating and thus cause inaccuracy. A high primer can also be a potential hazard. This deposit is easily removed with a few twists of a primer pocket cleaner.
As stated in the beginning of this article there are many different steps that need to be considered when processing brass. We’ve only scratched the surface here, but we hope this has given new reloaders an insight into what goes into becoming a successful reloader. If you would like a deeper dive into reloading and what it takes to take a spent piece of brass and turn it into an accurate round of ammunition be sure to check out our 50th Edition Reloading Handbook.