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Reloading Military Brass

By Keith Wood

The Question: Is re-loading military brass is too difficult to bother with?

The Problem: Military ammunition such as Lake City 5.56x45mm and 7.62x51mm is loaded with the primer crimped in place so that a “blown” primer won’t cause a malfunction in combat. To reload one of these cartridges, the crimp must be removed so that the new primer can be properly seated.

The Methods: There are two basic methods for removing the crimp from a primer pocket—swaging or reaming. Swaging can be done with a special die or a bench-top tool like the one available from Dillon Precision. You essentially force a hard tool into the primer pocket which removes the crimp. Reaming uses a cutting tool to remove the crimp from the spent case. Each method works as an effective means of removing the crimp, and it really comes down to personal preference when determining which method you should use.

My Experience: I found myself in possession of thousands of rounds of Lake City 5.56mm brass that I procrastinated loading for a couple of years because I didn’t want to take the time to “process” the brass for reloading. A few Sundays ago I sucked it up and went at the brass bucket like a sweatshop worker. I started by tumbling all of the brass to clean it using a mixture of corncob and crushed walnut media.

After cleaning, I set the resizing/decapping die so that I would de-cap the cases without doing any sizing—I didn’t want to have to lube the cases at this point and I surely didn’t want to stick a case in the die. Deprimed cases went into a separate bucket and, when that bucket was full, it was time to de-crimp.

I used the RCBS Trim Mate Case Prep Center, which is a power tool that uses four rotating heads to handle tasks like chamfering, cleaning necks and primer pocket reaming—I ordered the Trim Mate with a factory-set military crimp remover for small primers. I held each case down onto the reamer/crimp remover for a few seconds until the crimp was gone and then switched to the primer pocket brush to clean out the carbon and brass shavings inside.

At this point, the cases were ready to lubricate and reload as normal. Once this is done, the case never needs to be de-crimped again. The whole process was pretty painless and I finished a few thousand cases in an afternoon.

The Ruling: With the right tools, it takes about 15 seconds per cartridge to reload military brass. At the current price and availability of ammo—especially 5.56mm—that is worth it to me. Military brass is no big deal, so next time you’re at the range pick those cases up or, if you’d like, leave them for me.

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4 Responses to Reloading Military Brass

Keith Annis wrote:
June 19, 2013

Nice, usually I pick them up. Serves as a remembrance or sometimes I have it cleaned again. Thanks! http://www.fsibrass.com/

William wrote:
September 09, 2012

Question. Ive got some M852 ammo cases and they are all below 2.005 which is what I was told to trim to.. Are they generally shorter cases than regular or what? Are they good?

KW wrote:
April 19, 2012

Larry- Those cases are probably "Berdan" primed which means they are generally not reloadable. Peek down into the case with a light- if you see two flash holes, sell the cases for scrap. KW

larry corrigan wrote:
April 12, 2012

I have quite a few milatary brass cases that have been fired with dates 1941,1942 FA. I understand they had corrosive primers then, would this have any deteriation to the brass casings.