Thursday, August 15, 2013

Would You Ever Reload an Aluminum "Non-reloadable" Case?

CCI Aluminum case with N R headstamp.
It says it right on the headstamp. N R!  It means a non-reloadable case. So would you reload one? Is it even safe to reload an aluminum case? Are the primer pockets normal size? Are they Boxer primed or Berdan primed?  A quick perusal of the blogosphere had one or two incidences of spent powder ejected to the face with a stinging or burning sensation. One had a clip blown out of the grip. I didn't see any injures, but seriously why risk it? Look, under any set of normal circumstances, the chances of getting injured are just not worth it to me. The chance that I could damage my gun isn't worth it to me either.

There are a lot of you out there who have done it. Go ahead, admit it. And, you got away with it (most of you) because you used a very weak propellant charge. You found out that they would usually not fail catastrophically on the first firing but split on the second or third. The blogs were also full of reasons we are tempted to reload aluminum cases. They are everywhere at our ranges! You don't care if you lose them. You can just reload them once...and maybe get away with it. They are free! (That one was really common!) Probably the most compelling reason we are so tempted to reload the things is because that is what we do. We are reloaders.

We each decide just how much risk we are willing to tolerate every time we enjoy our hobby. Even the best brass case will eventually fail. Sometimes a brass case will fail on the first firing! If you haven't experienced this yet, you will if you shoot long enough. When the average 9mm case fails, it fails by splitting at the case mouth (about 97% of the time) with little impact on the weapon or shooter.
Small case mouth split not likely to be noticed by shooter during firing.
 
View from inside case mouth.

Large split likely to be felt by shooter!
Most frequently you will not even notice it -- no failure to eject and ballistics look and feel the same. You will find a small crack at the case mouth during your safety inspection of the case prior to reloading it.  If you are not doing your safety inspection of every case prior to reloading and you miss this small defect, you will experience a lot of this burning sensation on your face the next time you fire the case. Then you will notice a large split of the case. No one would attempt to reload the case pictured just above. (Well, after reading some of the blogs, I think there are a few who would.) But, I think we are all capable of missing the small split of the case pictured above it. That small split preceded the large failure! Brass cases fail too. So we looked at this question seriously.

We loaded three aluminum CCI 9mm LUGER NR cases. Powder was Accurate #5, charge was 6.2 grains, bullet was a Remington 115 grain Golden Saber, LOA was 1.110 inches, primer was Winchester small pistol. We fired these through a Taurus PT 92.
Reloaded cases.

Reloaded cases.

The case on the left below failed on the first firing, the case pictured in the center failed on the second firing. The case to the right failed after four firings and had only a small split at the case mouth.


   
Case failures after firing.

So here are the answers we found to the questions. Yes, you can reload that aluminum case. The CCI case we looked at has a Boxer primer and ran through our dies easily and without galling (we did use case lube). The primer fit was somewhat loose but no primer failure was noted. You can reload the average brass case many many times, but these aluminum cases had an average life of only 2 firings. Yes, they will fail very quickly and, the most extensive failure was on a first firing! When they fail, they fail much more dramatically than brass! So, is it safe to reload them? Here is my answer:

If...the zombie apocalypse were in full swing after a weaponized viral pandemic raged across the earth, brought on by a world wide economic collapse precipitated by global warming induced natural disasters unprecedented in the human experience, and...I ran out of all my ammo defending my family from the brain eaters, I would reload them ...once... and bang away. Probably praying each time I pulled the trigger. So yes, they are safe to reload under those circumstances. Until then I am going to stick with good old brass cases!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Hornady brass longevity?

I had a reader inquire about the ANBF of Hornady 9mm brass the other day. I have been able to identify four different headstamps on their brass.
Hornady 9mm brass. This one has a diamond after the 9mm

Hornady 9mm brass. This one is very likely made by Sellier & Bellot

Hornady 9mm brass. This one had a dot after the 9MM with capital M's

Hornady 9mm brass. This is the one I see most frequently

Hornady 9mm brass. These just started showing up in once fired brass this year.


Other than the case which has a headstamp font and internal structure identical to Sellier & Bellot I do not know who manufactures the brass in the other examples. I will put Hornady on my list of brass to test this year and attempt to determine which manufacturer they used for each. I appreciate the inquiry and input!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Case life of 9mm brass. Reloading Armscor 9mm brass



In this blog we examine and test fire Armscor 124 gr FMJ 9mm ammo. We are looking at how it performs and how re-loadable the once fired brass is. Armscor ammunition, located in Stevensville, Montana manufacturers this 9mm ammunition with the head stamp "ARMSCOR USA 9MM LUGER". Their website is www.armscorusa.com. The following information is directly quoted from their web site.
 “ARMSCOR Small Arms Ammunition line is one of the largest and most comprehensive in Southeast Asia. The Company offers a wide selection of competitively priced ammunition and components with sales spread throughout the world.
ARMSCOR, an ISO 9001 Certified Company, complies with the SAAMI, CIP and other military or customer desired standards or requirements.
ARMSCOR cartridges and components are widely used by the police, military, gun hobbyist, combat shooters and other shooting enthusiast due to its high quality, precise and dependable performance. “

Armscor factory new ammo in the box

We purchased factory new ammo and examined it. We disassembled one of the cartridges and found that the projectile was a 124.9 grain FMJ brass round nose with a flat base. The brass jacket did not encase the base of the bullet where the exposed flat based lead core was noted. The FMJ bullets were smooth and free of surface manufacturing defects. The powder had irregular morphology with spheres, disks and irregular flakes, and weighed 4.1 grains. The primer was a brass cup and had an internal tripod anvil assembly very similar to a CCI small pistol primer.
Projectile and propellant

We then test fired the remaining 49 rounds of this ammunition through a Taurus PT 99 AF 9 mm handgun. The same weapon used in the previous tests.  Prior to firing, we weighed each cartridge and found that this ammunition had an average weight of the 191.8 grains per cartridge, the heaviest round was 193.5 grains and the lightest was 190.4 grains. The standard deviation was .6 grains.

We measured the velocity of each of the rounds using a Pro Chronograph digital chronograph and found that the average velocity of this ammunition was 1177 ft./s. the slowest round had a velocity of 1159 ft./s 15 feet from the barrel, and the fastest round had a velocity of 1195 ft./s.  There was a standard deviation of 8 ft./s. The ammunition performed flawlessly through the weapon. There were no failures to feed or eject.
We ran the spent cases through a Lee resizing and depriming die and found the brass to move very smoothly through the process without any irregularities in the primer burn hole centering or diameter which adversely affected de-priming. Visual examination of the interior of the case showed a smooth interior cup. The base of the cup was flat and the burn hole had an irregular circular opening due to burrs at its edges. The burs were compressed flat around the lip of the burn hole. Primer seating and fit was snug and smooth with Winchester, Federal, Wolf, CCI, Magtech, and Remington small pistol primers.

Note irregular shape of burn hole due to flattened burrs
Our impression of the Armscor 9mm 124 grain FMJ ammo is favorable. It has “precise and dependable” performance as promised. It burns cleanly. A very low standard deviation in velocity and a good standard deviation in the weight of the cartridges indicate a consistent quality manufacturing process. All the materials used to assemble the cartridges seem to be of high quality. Performance through the weapon was flawless. Accuracy was not tested.

Our primary interest is in the reload-ability of the brass. Our initial impression here is also favorable. It is easy to work with.  It cleans easily. It runs through our dies easily. It has consistently good seating in the primer pocket of a wide variety of primers.  Seating was smooth and firm with each, and did not loosen at all with repeated reloading.  The reloads function flawlessly through the test weapon.

We reloaded and fired two cases to failure and found the  ANBF (average number of times a case can be reloaded prior to failing) to be 30. As in all other cases tested, the failures were small splits at the case mouth.  This ANBF places Armscor in the company of Independence, Sellier & Bellot and Ammo Tech with a solid ANBF (see chart below), but well below Winchester, Aguila and CBC for longevity.  Armscor 9mm ammo rates very highly as factory new ammo and the brass was a solid performer for reloading. Armscor brass goes on our “reload with confidence” list with a note about a less than average lifespan.
Updated data as of 9/29/2012

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Case life of 9mm brass. Reloading RWS 9mm brass. We take a close look at this Swiss ammo.


In this blog we examine and test fire RWS 124 gr FMJ 9mm ammo. We are looking at how it performs and how re-loadable the once fired brass is. RWS ammunition, manufactured by Ammotec, RUAG headquartered in Thun, Switzerland, bears the head stamp "RWS 9mm Luger". The brand stems from the Rheinisch-Westfälischen Sprengstoff-Fabriken, and hence the RWS head stamp. Their website is http://www.ruag-usa.com/. The following information is directly quoted from their web site.

“RUAG Ammotec USA is home to some of the most respected names in center fire ammunition, with applications that cover a wide range of uses which include personal defense, sport and competitive shooting, hunting, and law enforcement training, tactical, and sniper shooting.
The brands of RUAG Ammotec have been integral in reaching major milestones in ammunition development, which include smokeless powder, jacketed rifle bullets, and non-corrosive primers. Today, RUAG Ammotec is leading the global technological development of lead-free primers and advanced frangible ammunition. All ammunition that falls under the RUAG name is manufactured in total compliance with CIP, SAAMI or NATO specifications.”


We purchased factory new ammo and examined it. We disassembled one of the cartridges and found that the projectile was a 122.9 grain FMJ copper round nose with a flat base. The copper jacket did not encase the base of the bullet where the exposed flat based lead core was noted. The FMJ bullets were smooth and free of surface manufacturing defects. The powder was a two part disk and ball powder. It had irregular disk morphology and smaller ball components and weighed 5.2 grains. The primer was a brass cup and had an internal anvil assembly consisting of three prongs supporting the anvil.

We then test fired the remaining 49 rounds of this ammunition through a Taurus PT 99 AF 9 mm handgun. The same weapon used in the previous tests.  Prior to firing, we weighed each cartridge and found that this ammunition had an average weight of the 189.39 grains per cartridge, the heaviest round was 190.4 grains and the lightest was 188.8 grains. The standard deviation was .33 grains.
We measured the velocity of each of the rounds using a Pro Chronograph digital chronograph and found that the average velocity of this ammunition was 1121 ft./s. The slowest round had a velocity of 1063 ft./s 15 feet from the barrel, and the fastest round had a velocity of 1170 ft./s.  There was a standard deviation of 27 ft./s. The ammunition performed flawlessly through the weapon. There were no failures to feed or eject.
Very clean burn hole and internal cup

We ran the spent cases through a Lee resizing and depriming die and found the brass to move very smoothly through the process without any irregularities in the primer burn hole centering or diameter. Visual examination of the interior of the case showed a smooth interior cup. The base of the cup was flat and the burn hole had perfectly circular opening without any burs present. This feature is nearly unique in the ammo we have tested. Their process leaves one of the most clean and burr free burn holes we have examined.  Primer seating and fit was snug and smooth with Winchester, Federal, Wolf, CCI, Magtech, and Remington small pistol primers.

Our initial impression of the RWS 9mm 115 grain TMJ ammo is favorable. It has consistent performance. It burns cleanly. The standard deviation in velocity, and weight of the cartridges indicate a quality manufacturing process. All the materials used to assemble the cartridges seem to be of high quality.  Performance through the weapon was flawless. Accuracy was not tested.

Our primary interest is in the reload-ability of the brass. Our initial impression here is also favorable. It has an especially clean and burr free burn hole. It is easy to work with.  It cleans easily. It runs through our dies easily. It has consistently good seating in the primer pocket of a wide variety of primers.  Seating was smooth and firm with each, and did not loosen at all with repeated reloading.  The reloads function flawlessly through the test weapon.

We reloaded and fired two cases to failure and found the  ANBF (average number of times a case can be reloaded prior to failing) to be 35.5  As in all other cases tested, the failures were a split at the case mouth of one of the cases and a split just below the case mouth on the other.  This places RSW slightly below average for the ANBF. 

In review, RWS 9mm ammo rates average in all areas tested. The standard deviation of .33gr and 27 ft/sec with flawless performance through the weapon, indicate good quality control in the manufacturing process and in the components used,  but does not cause RWS to stand out among all ammo manufacturers. The ANBF of 35.5 puts RWS in the company of Remington, COR-BON, and Norinco for reloading longevity of the brass. RWS 124 gr FMJ 9mm ammo is a solid, reliable shooting round which can be purchased at reasonable prices. We will also be adding RWS brass to our list of brass which can be reloaded many times with confidence.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Case life of 9mm brass. Reloading HPR 9mm brass. We test this relatively new ammo

In this blog we examine and test fire HPR ammo. We are looking at how it performs and  how re-loadable the once fired brass is. High Precision Range ammunition, Thorium  Enterprises LLC,  Advanced Technical Armaments Concepts LLC, located in Payson, Arizona manufacturers this 9mm ammunition with the head stamp "HPR 9mm LUGER". Their website is www. HPRammo.com. The following  information is directly quoted from their web site.

HPR 9mm  LUGER head stamp,  High Precision Range Ammunition
"HPR strives to include ALL American components in our cartridges; something we believe isn’t being done by many other US companies on a commercial scale.  With the latest equipment, hand inspection, hand packaging and attention to detail, we aim to give shooters the confidence of safety and consistent accuracy between shots.  We believe HPR is poised to be one of the finest commercial production ammunition brands on the market."
HPR Packaging and ammo prior to testing.

We purchased factory new ammo and examined it. We then test fired 50 rounds of this ammunition through a Taurus PT 99 AF 9 mm handgun. The same weapon used in the previous tests. Prior to firing,  we weighed each cartridge and found that this ammunition had an average weight of 180.04 grains per cartridge, the heaviest cartridge was 181.1 grains, and the lightest was 179.3 grains. The standard deviation was .427 grains
Surface irregularities on the nose of the bullet and smooth base.

We disassembled one of the cartridges and found that the projectile was a 115 grain FMJ plated round nose with a flat base. The copper plating encased the entire bullet. The FMJ bullets were noted to have an irregular surface in many of the examples in this box. We did not attempt to determine if these irregularities were the result of the casting process or were imparted during the manufacturing process.  Interestingly the portion of the bullet seated within the case was very smooth and without these surface irregularities, which may indicate the latter. The powder had an irregular disk morphology and weighed approximately 4.5 grains.  The primer was nickel plated and had an internal anvil assembly very similar to a CCI small pistol primer.
Fired Unknown HPR primer on left unfired CCI small pistol primer on right

We measured the velocity of each of the 50 rounds using a Pro Chronograph digital chronograph and found that the average velocity of this ammunition was 1103 ft./s the slowest round had a velocity of 1082 ft./s 15 feet from the barrel, and the fastest round had a velocity of 1132 ft./s.  There was a standard deviation of 12 ft./s. The ammunition performed flawlessly through the weapon. There were no failures to feed or eject.

We ran the spent cases through a Lee resizing and depriming die and found the brass to move very smoothly through the process without any irregularities in the primer burn hole centering or diameter. Visual examination of the interior of the case showed a smooth interior cup with a compressed annular burr on the lip of the burn hole. This annular burr is very similar to those found in Starline 9mm cases. Primer seating and fit was snug and smooth with Winchester, Federal, Wolf, CCI, Magtech, and Remington small pistol primers.
HPR burn hole
Similar burn hole found in Starline 9mm case



Our initial impression of the HPR 9mm 115 grain TMJ ammo is favorable. It has consistent performance as promised. It burns cleanly. Low standard deviation in velocity, and weight of the cartridges indicate a consistent quality manufacturing process. All the materials used to assemble the cartridges seem to be of high quality with the possible exception of the bullet which had some surface irregularities.  Performance through the weapon was flawless. Accuracy was not tested.

Our primary interest is in the reload-ability of the brass. Our initial impression here is also very favorable. It is easy to work with.  It cleans easily. It runs through our dies easily. It has consistently good seating in the primer pocket of a wide variety of primers.  Seating was smooth and firm with each, and did not loosen at all with repeated reloading.  The reloads function flawlessly through the test weapon.

We reloaded and fired two cases to failure and found the  ANBF (average number of times a case can be reloaded prior to failing) to be 48.5  As in all other cases tested, the failure was a split at the case mouth of one of the cases and a split just below the case mouth on the other.  This places HPR just above Winchester for the ANBF.  HPR 9mm brass rates very highly in all areas tested. We will be adding it to our list of brass which can be reloaded with confidence!









Saturday, January 21, 2012

Is A-Merc brass crap? Yes, unless it is Winchester!

OK, I have had a lot of negative feedback on the A-Merc brass winding up with the best longevity. As I stated in my conclusions It would be very helpful to get more information on the manufacturer of each case.  I personally selected the ammo, fired it and carefully logged the results, and stand by my results. The statistics are accurate, A-Merc came out on top which is a bit of a mystery! But, after digging a bit there is indeed a great deal to be said for knowing all the facts about the manufacturer of any given brass.  In the case of the A-Merc cases I included in this study they were early production ammo.

Here is the answer to the mystery. AA started out as a reloader. They used components manufactured by others and sold their own "brand" of ammo when they started out in the 1980's, by the early 2000's they were making their own brass which has become well known for having problems. I got this information from the Association of Firearm and Toolmark Examiners at http://www.afte.org/ExamResources/ga..._MERC.jpg.html Careful study of the headstamp showed it to be brass which was almost certainly manufactured by the Olin corporation for AA. Why do I not have 100% certainty? Because manufacturers of ammunition components have closely guarded trade secrets. Not the least of which is who they are making and selling components to. I went to the recognized expert on 9mm headstamps and he felt the A-Merc cases used in this study were early examples of Olin manufactured cases. Olin has not responded to my requests for information and won't as I am coming to understand.
Early production brass likely made by Olin, note the font with a clear A and upper case MM in 9MM


Later A-Merc Brass of their own manufacture, note the difference in the font and small mm in 9mm


So, in all likelihood, Winchester and early A-Merc brass are the same stuff produced by the Olin corporation, and that is consistent with the findings in this study. I am continuing to look into the actual manufacturer of each of the cases included in the study and I am sure the results of that will be equally illuminating. Thanks to all of you for the feedback on discussion boards and blogs.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Which brass is best for reloading? How often can I reload brass?

This a common question for reloaders new to the discipline. Those who have been at it for a lifetime will have their considered opinions based on many years of experience. This study will focus on one aspect of this question, longevity. There are many references on reloading that promote different opinions about reloading used brass. Lyman states that “Fired cartridge cases have a finite life” and that “Eight firings are average for the typical handgun cartridge such as the 38 Special or 9mm Luger.”  It is further suggested that one never use anything but new brass that has been fired by the individual who intends to reload.1  Lee, Nosler and Hornady all suggest a thorough visual safety inspection of fired brass which eliminates any cases with defects will leave you with reloadable brass. 2,3,4 None of these venerable sources make specific recommendations as to which brass is preferred for reloading. Opinions abound on discussion boards but data was not available to review on the question. One attribute that contributes to a brass being the “best” is the number of times it can be safely reloaded. This is a pilot study to determine the number of times 9mm pistol brass can be reloaded safely.

The questions I am asking in this experiment are: "How can we identify brass that has become unsafe to reload?" and "Which brands of brass fail sooner and which fail later?" and “How does brass fail?”  Guidelines based on the data gathered could then be established to guide safe reloading practices. The goal of this study is to fire many different brands of brass to failure. Failure for the proposes of this study will be defined as: any condition that leads to the malfunctioning of the ammo in a way that could cause harm to the weapon or shooter, or any defect noted in the brass during safety inspection which could reasonably be expected to cause such harm if the brass were fired again. I have attempted to eliminate all the variables, gather data and draw reasonable conclusions.

Summary: The 50 cases produced 1807 rounds of ammunition which functioned flawlessly through the weapon. The average number of firings before failure for the entire experimental group was 34.75. One case was fired 68 times prior to failure. The data gathered in this study indicate that the Identification of brass which is unsafe to reload is accomplished by a simple visual examination of the brass to be reloaded. Any cracks or splits at or below the case mouth should be removed from service and permanently discarded. Brass failures in the 9mm were consistently noted to be case splits at or just below the case mouth. No failures of the brass were noted during firing. Failures were noted during a visual examination of the case prior to reloading. There were no potential safety events, those leading to harm to the weapon or shooter, during the entire experiment. Careful visual examination of the brass case to be reloaded, which revealed no grossly abnormal appearance, nor splits or defects at or below the case mouth, in each case resulted in normal and safe firing of the reloaded cartridge.

The brand of brass with the greatest longevity was A-Merc 9mm RH. With an average number of firings before failure (ANBF) of 52. (Before you go ballistic, please see this!) These cases were reloaded without any malfunction or detectable failure for an average of 52 times. The shortest longevity was the Federal FC 9mm LUGER with an ANBF of 11.5.

Failure of 9mm brass was exclusively at the case mouth 94% or just below it 6%. No case head separation was noted. No failure was detectable during firing. No safety events were experienced during the experiment. 

Materials and Methods: Two rounds of factory new 9mm ammunition were gathered from the following manufacturers: Winchester 9mm LUGER and 9mm LUGER NT, CBC 9mm LUGER, COR-BON 9mm LUGER +p, HP 9mm Hirtenberger Patronen (Austria), A-MERC 9mmRH and 9MM American Ammunition FL, USA, LY 9x19 ’93 NORINCO China, Independence 9mm LUGER, nny 9mm LUGER Yugoslavia, Blazer 9mm LUGER, TZZ 9MM’96 (Israel Munitions Industries), Federal FC 9MM LUGER, Remington R-P 9mm LUGER, RWS 9mm LUGER Rheinisch Westfalischen Sprengstoff (Germany), AMT-97 9mm LUGER AmmoTech Republic of South Africa, PARA 9mm ’93, NORINCO China, PPU 9mm LUGER Prvi Partizan (Serbia), MFS 9x19 Hungarian Ammunition Manufacturing Inc. (Matravideki Femmuvek Sirok), ICC 9mm International Cartridge Corp. USA, AGUILA 9mm Mexico, S&B 9x19 ’09 Czechoslovakia, PMP 9mm LUGER Republic of South Africa, NPA ’08 Olympic Industries S.A. (Greece), and XTRM-SHOK 9mm Nitrilium Extreme Shock Ammunition USA


Brass prior to repeated reloading.
 
After the initial firing through a Taurus model 99 chambered in 9mm, the once fired brass was deprimed and full length resized in a Lee full length resizing die. It was cleaned in an ultrasonic cleaner with a weak organic acid cleaning solution intended for cleaning brass for reloading. It was then tumbled for two hours in corn cob media to which 5cc of Frankfort Arsenal Brass Cleaner and Polish had been added. Each case was primed with CCI small pistol primers using a Lee auto prime. The cases were charged and the case mouth flared just enough to initially seat a Winchester 115gr FMJ RN bullet using a Lee through die charging die with an auto disc (.43). The propellant used was Winchester Action Pistol at 5.6gr. The bullet was seated to an overall length of 1.115” with a Lee bullet seating die. The reloaded ammo was fired at an outdoor range and the spent brass gathered and accounted for with no brass being included from other sources. The cleaning process was repeated every 5th firing. The brass was checked for case length at this time also, and any that exceeded .745” were trimmed with a Lee case length trimmer. The reloading process was identical throughout the experiment for each successive firing through the Taurus 9mm. For every firing, the brass was carefully visually examined for any signs of case failure prior to being approved for further reloading. Any brass that failed my safety inspection was dropped from the rotation.

Results: The ballistic performance for the experimental cases was gathered with a Pro Chrono Digital Chronograph. The average velocity measured at 10 feet from the muzzle was 1060 ft/sec. The standard deviation was 26 ft/sec. No signs of excessive pressure were noted in the primer area or the web area. The 50 cases produced 1807 rounds of ammunition which functioned flawlessly through the weapon. The average number of firings before failure for the entire experimental group was 34.75. The brass with the highest ANBF was A-MERC 9mm RH and the brass with the smallest ANBF was Federal FC 9mm LUGER. No case failures were detectable during firing. Failures were detected during the safety inspection of the case prior to reloading. Failures were at the case mouth or just below it for all the cases.

Discussion: All conclusions drawn from this experiment are based on the load data specified. Loads with higher velocities and higher pressures would be expected to have different outcomes.  There are many other brass manufacturers who were not included in this study. The intention was not to be all inclusive but to establish a baseline of data regarding the variability in brass longevity. Any brass can now be fired to the same specifications and the data added to that gathered here. The actual manufacturer and alloy used for each case would also be helpful in interpreting the data. Several of the test cases for example were probably manufactured by the Olin Corporation.  Several were probably manufactured by Federal. Sellier and Bellot were very likely the source for others. The most likely Brass Alloy used is MIL-C-50 a 70%Cu/30%Zn alloy, the standard specifications for cartridge brass sheet, strip, plate, bar, and disks known as ASTM B19- 10However this information is difficult to obtain from the manufacturers as it is considered proprietary or "trade secret" information. The process used to draw or stamp the cases would also be very helpful information. Was the brass annealed during the serial draws? More precise information regarding the exact nature of the brass being examined will reveal significant differences that will have an influence on longevity. I am endeavoring to gather this information which can be difficult to obtain and confirm with certainty. It will be published as a follow up to this study.

The question of identification of brass that is unsafe for reloading is a straight forward one. A visual examination of the brass that determines that it is grossly intact and has no case or case mouth splits qualifies it as reloadable without fear of catastrophic failure for the load used in this study. Once fired brass is a term used loosely in recreational reloading. This study indicates that there is no replacement for a final safety inspection prior to reloading any brass regardless of its history. Although Lyman suggests that one “Load only cases which you have obtained new unfired or which you have on hand as the result of firing new factory ammo in the firearm for which you wish to reload. A few pennies saved on bargain so called “once-fired” brass makes little sense when one considers the cost of a firearm and/or medical treatment or worse”; 5 this study indicates that brass which is visually without defect will perform safely and flawlessly when loaded to the specifications of this study. I agree that we should always err on the side of safety whenever there is any doubt. I want to be clear that heavier loads with higher pressures were not examined in this study, and that one would expect vastly different results. I would always use new or personally “once-fired” brass when loading at the maximum recommended loads.

The best brass for reloading, determined by the highest ANBF (average number of firings before failure), were: A-Merc, Aguila, Winchester, MFS and CBC. As to which brass is best overall, there are many other factors which one could consider. Regarding only the maximum times reloadable these would be considered best. It is interesting to note that all brass in this study performed well for up to 10 reloadings. To determine a more statistically valid ANBF, a larger sample size would be necessary. It would be interesting to perform the same study with a sample size of 50 cases per manufacturer. For the purposes of this study however, it is clear that some brass performs longer than others.

Regarding how brass fails, the results clearly show that catastrophic failures were non existent. No case failed in a way that was detectable during firing. All failures were detected during the safety inspection of the case prior to reloading. Failures were splits in the long axis of the case at the case mouth 94% of the time or just below it 6% of the time. This type of failure is most likely due to work hardening. A process whereby the molecular structure of the brass becomes more highly organized or crystallized by repeated expansion and contraction. This makes it more brittle. Contributing to the failure also is a thinning of the case wall by the repeated resizing of the case in the dies. This thinning and elongation was noted in many of the cases that were trimmed to length. No case head separation was noted.

Typical failures.



Conclusions: The questions I am asking in this experiment are: "How can we identify brass that has become unsafe to reload?" and "Which brands of brass fail sooner and which fail later?" and “How does brass fail?”  The following conclusions can be drawn from the data gathered from this study.

  1. Careful visual examination of brass prior to reloading is mandatory to detect defects that cause it to be unsafe to fire. For normal appearing 9mm pistol brass, the specific defects you are looking for are splits at or just below the case mouth. Clearly any abnormal appearance, gross deformation of the brass which does not resolve during full length resizing, would eliminate the case from consideration for reloading. Cases which have been crushed or where the case mouth has been irreversibly creased for example. Using the load data in this study, any brass that is normal in gross appearance and is free of visually detectable defects may be considered safe to reload.

  1. Using the load data in this study, the number of times you may expect to be able to reload the average brass is about 35 times. Even the poorest performing brass in this study was safely reloaded over 11 times. The maximum number of reloads you can expect is about 50.


  1. When 9mm brass fails, you can expect it to fail by splitting at or just below the case mouth. You can expect the failure event to be undetectable during firing. It will be visually detectable during the next safety inspection.


Bibliography

  1. Lyman, Reloading Handbook, 49th Edition. pp 34,47
  2. Lee, Modern Reloading 1966, P. 148
  3. Nosler, Reloading Guide, Sixth Edition, pp. 37, 46
  4. Hornady, Handbook of Cartridge Reloading, Fourth Edition, p. 37
  5. Lyman, Reloading Handbook, 49th Edition. P.47