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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I was loading up some of my oldest .243 brass today, and had made it to the priming stage of my process when I noticed a few faint lines on these cases. I did the old bent wire trick and sure enough I felt a ridge on two out of this lot of about 40. (This is done by bending the tip of a 6-8" piece of wire and feeling for the indentation inside the case) These particular rounds have been loaded 9 times and annealed twice, trimmed about every other loading. I've kept a pretty good eye on this brass as it's the most loaded I've got in this caliber, and this is the first that I've caught the incipient case head separation, thankfully before firing it. Of the cases I cut in two, the one on the left was normal, the middle one medium bad, and the last on the right substantially thinned. They have all been fired the same number of times.

I took the cases out in the sunlight to take the pictures and after downloading them I was surprised at how much more evident the line was in the sun as compared to inside. I went back and double checked all the other rounds, and they are all good to go. Even so this will be it for this bunch of brass and will be discarded after this use. I hope this is some help to all of our new reloaders, and to our veterans please feel free to chime in on anything I might have missed.
 

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Nine times is about what you can expect to get from your reloaded brass, and only maybe a couple more loadings at most. It appears to be Winchester brass in the pics. Of the Ammerican manufactured brass, Winchester brass is a little thinner than Remington or Federal, and by this has more case capacity and also seems to wear out a little faster. Several test have been published, and in one test in particular on brass longevity, between eight to twelve loadings is where the American manufactured brass failed or showed signs of case head separation. Norma brass failed when it had been loaded almost thirty times. Lapua brass went over fifty loadings when it was determined that the brass had become too work hardened to load effectivly, but that it did not experience case head separation like all the others had. The testing was done on a match rifle with tight chamber so the brass wasn't overworked in the sizing process.
 

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Thanks for those pictures of them cut in half. That is very good, I have never seen a case head separation presented in such a good clear way.
 

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Garydude,

SUPER job cutting the casings lengthwise showing the thinning areas near the head. This post should be thoroughly read and understood by all; new and old reloaders. Great post!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Much thanks George and 312 shooter. High praise indeed coming from you guys! I cut the cases with a hacksaw. It's actually pretty easy if you have a vice, and quite handy for determining what's actually going on with your brass.

This particular gun has given me an actual case separation upon firing. All that I felt was a bit of blow back in my face, that was it. No harm to me or the gun, but it sure taught me to be vigilant with my brass.
 

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Thanks garydude, I'm new to reloading only been doing this for a couple of months. This helps a lot. Ill be checking all my brass, loaded and unloaded for the lines. Ill put a mark on them so I can inspect them better and keep a eye on them. Thanks again. By the way great pics too.
 

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I was taught to toss bottle neck cases after the fifth trimming on standard calibers, pushing cases beyond this would lead to a case separation and problems.
 

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nice pics, while a lil hard to see.. you deffinately DO see a thinning in at least 1 pic.
 

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nice job garydude, those 4 pics are worth a thousand words or so.
 

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It's also HIGHLY dependent on the load itself, and the actual case design has an effect.
In 6mm Rem. for example, my moderate loads for coyote and deer have gone 15 cycles in Remington brass before being retired.
That same brand however, will only make about 7 in my 6mm Rem. H.B. varminter where I routinely push the load to max for long range 'doggin' with the 55 gr Noslers at over 4000 fps.
Ackley often touted his "Improved" designs as giving longer case life with it's 'sharper' shoulder, and there is some evidence of this with shorter case life in such cartrides as the .243 and the .308.
 

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Thank you for helping to educate those of us with less experience Gary, but I have to admit that I'm not positive what I'm looking at, defect-wise, maybe I just don't see it well in the pics, what are you demonstrating with the pics?, the wall thickness just above the primer/head area?

I ask because a have a set of 100 reloads I did, that have the same noticable ring/line around the outside of the case, I showed some of them to an experienced reloader locally and he said they were fine, I was concerned because this is W brass that my Dad has been using since the 60's/70's, but it is for his closet queen .284, it only came out for deer season, a shot or 2 before the season start to confirm the scope was still on, and 1-3 shots to down a deer, this was the kind of useage this rifle had, it never went to prairie dog town for a long day of shooting, not that kind of use at all,
So while I have 40 yr old brass (160 total), as near as we can tell it has been reloaded 3-4 times, and with light loads, the accuracy load for this rifle is just over the starting load,

But just trying too learn here, and not known for my vision:D are you trying to showing progressively thinner sidewalls just above the head??

Thanks in advance,
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Jack, give me about an hour and I will clarify. It was a bit of a difficult thing for me to get my mind around first time I saw this.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Ok Jack, when you look at the pictures, note the black arrows in the first picture. When you are looking for visual signs of potential case head separation the only thing I have ever noticed is the shiny line marked by the black arrows. This line is above the normal line that the reloading dies will cause. This line isn't always present, nor is it always straight with case head separation. If in doubt, use a wire and check it out. If still in doubt, then cut the case in two and either find the culprit or give yourself piece of mind. It's never fun having less than full counts on your loading blocks, but please don't hesitate to slice one or two open even if it means destroying the case in your pursuit of knowledge.

Secondly in viewing the pictures, note the yellow and green arrows. The yellow arrows show an indentation in the actual brass that is circumferential. It's difficult to see with the carbon black background. If instead you look at the brass itself (green arrows) you can see how the brass has thinned. Compare that to the one on the left (purple arrows) and see how the brass is substantially weakened. Keep in mind that these cases have all been fired the same number of times.

Hopefully this helps you visualize the changes. If not, let me know and I'll try again.
 

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Gary, thank you so much for taking the time and effort to explain,

What had me concerned was the lines by the head, if I understand correct the lower(closest to the head) of the 2 is left by the resizing die, the upper, should it be present, would be the one to raise suspicion, correct?

I went through the 100 reloads I made, and mentioned above, including 9 of the 100 that have been shot, less than 10% of them have any line at all, and the ones that do, it is the lower line, left by the full length resizing die, if I understand correctly, and I believe I do, so I am not concerned about these reloads at all, I certainly don't want to get hurt, and I really don't want to ruin an almost unreplacable rifle(I could never afford one, even if one could be found) that has extreme sentimental value seeing it was my Dad's, not to mention I took my first few deer with it,

Thank you again for making this effort to explain, the piece of mind and confidence in my reload brass is priceless, much appreciated Sir,

All that said, just because I have no way to be exactly sure how many times this brass has been fired, I'm going to retire them after these 100(91) have been shot, and bite the bullet and invest in 200 new Win .284 brass, not cheap on the surface, but cheap in the long run if it saves injury and or loss of a prized gun,
 

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What had me concerned was the lines by the head, if I understand correct the lower(closest to the head) of the 2 is left by the resizing die, the upper, should it be present, would be the one to raise suspicion, correct?
Yup, you're on the right track. that lower ring is just where the bottom of the sizing die is and that will be present on pretty much every resized casing unless your rifle chamber is super tight.

The light-colored ring right above it is the one to watch out for. Nice thing about brass is that when it fatigues like that, it changes color to that light shade. Very easy to see in Gary's pics.

I always inspect for suspect cases BEFORE I run them though the tumbler since that light color can get hidden if you polish the cases first.
Besides the color, I use a piece of wire with a hook bent on the end to feel the inside of the case near the head. It gets easy to feel that groove once you know what to feel for. The process is outlined in most reloading manuals too.

Gary, a suggestion to improve your excellent pics...
Take a file and smooth out the saw cut edges and those thin spots will really stick out clearly.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Gary, thank you so much for taking the time and effort to explain,

What had me concerned was the lines by the head, if I understand correct the lower(closest to the head) of the 2 is left by the resizing die, the upper, should it be present, would be the one to raise suspicion, correct? Exactly Right!

All that said, just because I have no way to be exactly sure how many times this brass has been fired, I'm going to retire them after these 100(91) have been shot, and bite the bullet and invest in 200 new Win .284 brass, not cheap on the surface, but cheap in the long run if it saves injury and or loss of a prized gun,
Why not cut a few open and check it out?

Gary, a suggestion to improve your excellent pics...
Take a file and smooth out the saw cut edges and those thin spots will really stick out clearly.
Excellent idea, and clearly I should have. Thanks for the tip :thumbsup: I originally cut them in half for my own curiosity, then decided to post about it.
 

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another thing. narror fine rings can be those cracks. a wider ring may b3 less indicative of trouble..
 

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Excellent idea, and clearly I should have. Thanks for the tip :thumbsup: I originally cut them in half for my own curiosity, then decided to post about it.
No problem. I've sliced several apart just to see the results for myself...yet I never once thought to post up the results so that all of us might learn something new about reloading.
Thank you for starting the thread!
 

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Thought you would like to see the full effect of case separation. This is a 257 Roberts Ackley Improved that separated during fire forming.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Welcome Freebore; as always it's a pleasure.

Thanks for the pic- any harm to you or the rifle with this incident?
 
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