View Full Version : 223/5.56 x 45 Reloaders

Regal Beagal
November 19, 2016, 19:39
Have a question for all of those who roll their own .223/5.56 x 45. I have close to 2000 military HS brass cases that I am preparing to reload. Of course, on all of these cases the primer pocket is crimped. After only 25 rounds the decapping pin of my Lee die has broken. I usually use RCBS or Hornady dies for all of my other rifle and pistol calibers and have never had a problem but all of these are commercial cases and the primer pockets are not crimped. What dies are you using for your military cases and have you had any problems with the decapping pin breaking? I've searched for military caliber die sets which are offered but all that I have found are for 27 caliber and above, nothing less...

November 19, 2016, 19:45
What is the headstamp of your "military" brass?

November 19, 2016, 19:55
The Guatemalan, which hasn't been around in quite some time, was notorious for small primer pockets.

November 19, 2016, 21:10
A Lee universal "decapping" die may be your answer. It will add a step to your reloading as all it will do is decap. You will have to resize in a separate step. But it will decap a range of calibers...

edited to add, if you have off center or too small diameter flash holes, you can expect to break some decapping pins. Might want to inspect a decapped case really close!

November 19, 2016, 21:27
I like RCBS, but I keep a supply of spare decapping pins handy. Once you get the primers out, you will have to swage the primer pockets before seating new ones. Pain in the arse..

November 19, 2016, 21:35
I use RCBS dies preferably though I do have other brands mixed in and about.
I use small base resizing dies for all semi auto rifles. I will not school thoughs that question the Small Base Sizing Die issue, the reason is self evident for thoughs that know and do use them exclusively. If you are not in the know do some research because it could save you from a very bad accident.
I am not familiar with HS brass. I have seen some off brand types, other country of origin, that have very small primer flash holes and I have had problems with them so they get trashed as if they were Berdan primed brass. Check the flash hole with some other brand such as Winchester, Hornady, Remington and so on.
Of course you know what Berdan primed brass looks like from the inside with two small flash holes, in my world this type of brass gets trashed, more trouble than they are worth.
In a nut shell this may be your problem ---- or not.

November 19, 2016, 21:43
If you shoot an AR15, you do not need small base dies. And if you do use them, make sure you get the stuck case remover kit, because you will need it..:eek:

November 19, 2016, 22:02
Been reloading/handloading my own ammunition since 1980...Standard caliber's as well as many, wildcat's...so I say this with complete confidence,

Small base dies were designed for lazy people that don't understand how to set up dies properly.

SB dies are NOT needed!

SB dies overwork brass, and cause premature case failure.

November 19, 2016, 22:03
I have both of the RCBS decapping dies. Even with them you will occasionally bend a pin so you will need extras on hand.

November 20, 2016, 00:43

Timber Wolf
November 20, 2016, 06:08
I use the Lee Universal for this kind of thing in an extra step, and keep an extra pin around. I also have the Dillon primer pocket swagger but have not warmed to it because it appears you really need to sort by headstamp due to the different web thicknesses of the various brass out there. I don't have time for that chit now so am just saving up brass for the day I have more time than money (retirement). My "problem" is the fuggers I shoot two-gun competition with don't reload or pick up their dadgum brass. I "had" to pick up 22 pounds of just .223/5.56 at last month's match alone.

November 20, 2016, 08:35
Not sure what head stamp, but in 308 you can pretty much toss Aguila (sp) as the crimp is so deep that it will break pins

November 20, 2016, 09:14
I use RCBS small base dies.

But, I agree, its unlikely you will need the small base function, especially if your brass was fired initially, and on all susequent firings, in your personal AR15.


You may come across some batches of brass that were fired in MACHINE GUNS, and which the expelled brass is substantially expanded beyond what you would get if you simply fired it in your personal semi-automatic rifle.

If you take heavily-expanded brass, and non-heavily-expanded brass, and you run both lots through the same die, adjusted to the same settings, the sizes of your finished products will be different.

I don't dispute the "belt-and-suspenders" challenge to the theory of the small base die. But, I'm not going to deride myself - or others - for using a small base die. I want that brass to resize so it will fit in any 5.56 rifle I might stick it in. Brasslives don't matter.

I load my 5.56 hotasfuck. And, I've loaded hellalot of 5.56. For many years now, it has been my unwavering policy to ALWAYS push the shoulder of my 5.56 handloads so the shoulder is the same spec (within 0.002") of LAKE CITY M193 factory ammo. I get three firings from a batch of cases before I start seeing quantity of stretch/separation issues in any given lot of brass, such that the lot is no longer worth my while to maintain in my dependable supplies.

I hear of guys who are getting a dozen firings from 5.56 brass in their autoloader rifles, and who are not using small-base dies, and who also have unicorns flying out their butts. Well,... good for them. When I was green to loading 5.56, and loading who-knows-what load for my Mini-14 :facepalm: I too was getting at least 7 or 8 loads before the Mini tossed the brass somewhere in the weeds at my impromptu "range" and the brass became lost. I submit that by the time most guys are loading big bunches of 5.56 for competition at distances 300+ yards, the lifespan of their brass is going to drop off. Either that, or they just won't want to deal with the uncertainty of whether a case is going to separate, or puke a primer, on a 100-degree day when they are in the running to actually shoot a respectable score. Its one thing to separate/puke on the bench all by your lonesome on a Sunday afternoon. Its something else altogether to do it in the middle of a Regional Championship match. I no longer have any patience with dealing with a can of this, and a can of that, "might-be-OK" ammo.

It needs to ALL be OK.

In fact, it all need to be EXCELLENT.

And seat your bullets deep enough that they don't hang-up in your shortest mags. I can remember (trying to) load my handloaded "match grade" ammo into 30 round mags on 9/11, and which I'd only previously tested in 20 round mags. Dammit. None of that ammo would fit in the 30-rounders, because I'd outsmarted myself with the fool notion that the bullets needed to be seated as "close to the rifling" as possible for "accuracy." In my pre-9/11 stroke of anal-retentive genius, I'd allowed less than 0.005" to spare so they would work in the 20-rounders. Well, those long rounds wouldn't even go into the 30-round mags.

Don't outsmart yourself.

Don't let misplaced notions of frugality undermine the greater objective of reliability.

Tuscan Raider
November 20, 2016, 11:00
If SB dies work for you, great. But every time someone has come
to me with problems shooting .223, I ask what dies they are using.

And every time, it's SB dies. Of course, YMMV.

Timber Wolf
November 20, 2016, 11:07
I no longer have any patience with dealing with a can of this, and a can of that, "might-be-OK" ammo.

It needs to ALL be OK.

In fact, it all need to be EXCELLENT.

And seat your bullets deep enough that they don't hang-up in your shortest mags.

Don't outsmart yourself.

Don't let misplaced notions of frugality undermine the greater objective of reliability.


November 20, 2016, 11:16
I'm going to +1 on what WEG said and add that I SB and trim every single piece of brass that I get and as he said load hotasfuck. I look at it as my life may depend on every round chambering someday and once fired brass is cheap. While it may not be "match grade" it will hit what you aim at everytime if you do your job.

November 20, 2016, 11:24
I use all Lee everything with the hand press to load 5.56, mostly Lake City fired brass. I don't think I have ever broken or bent a Lee decapping pin. It punches through the stubborn primers before it breaks.

November 20, 2016, 11:32
I agree, the Lee decapping pin is tough. But I don't like the rifle dies because they are hard to adjust. Pistol dies are great.

And I also use a Lee hand press for all my loadings.

November 20, 2016, 12:03
My experience has been that a lot of military .223/5.56 from other countries has flash holes that are not centered in the primer pocket. I have broken not just the decap pin, but bent the rod that holds it, on such cases.

John Crusher
November 20, 2016, 12:23
I also use Lee decappers on both .223 and .30 cases. What normally follows next takes all the work, but my reload process is planned for the round produced to be the best SINGLE round fired, not to be reloaded again.

November 20, 2016, 20:41
I have both small base and standard dies. All brass is sized first time with the small base dies as much is purchased from whoever is selling once fired Lake City on whichever discussion group cheapest when needed. I keep about four or more packs of spare decappi g pins and swap as needed but Lake City has properly centered flash holes and crimp is consistent but not oppressive like some off shore made on worn equipment by 12 year old child labor. For all I know some brass came from a dot gov range and fired through worn out sloppy SAW and want to be sure it's all brought into spec as well as can. It is then trimmed using a power trimmer with an RCBS three way cutter so no champhering is needed then rather than swage primer pockets, uniform them with a cutter in an RCBS case prep center and then uniform/deburr the flash holes.

At this point all brass is basically the same and know my rifles have snug chambers so subsequent loadings can be fast and simple on progressive press with standard dies and no additional prep untill after third loading. After third loading use a modified dental tool to feel for ridge inside case near case head and if feels good gets sized, trimmed a second time and bullets stuffed in for long term storage, use at ranges where picking up brass is not allowed or impossible for some reason lIke pasture with tall grass. Basically want it to still shoot well that last trip through but know it will likely never be loaded again.

On occasion it does get gathered up, run fast through progressive and scrapped after fifth loading no questions asked. Only had one case head separation and was when tried to milk as many loadings as possible in my youth. Can get as many as a dozen loadings if willing to suffer a blown primers or stuck cases. My four and occasional five loading cycles works well and by using cutter instead of swager to get rid of crimps the pockets stay tighter longer and uniform depth seats primer more consistent depth.

Have three grades of AR fodder. Lead hose fodder loaded with pull down bullets in end of lifespan brass. Better than factory but not match ammo loaded in relatively fresh brass with decent major manufacturer bullets. Every step taken to ensure my custom air gauged barrels have maximum ability to shoot to their potential with match bullets in internal volume matched once fired cases. Most of my archive ammo gets 62 grain IMI ss109 projectiles. It all has to be done well but not all loaded to an inch at 300 yards being difference between 1st and 10th place.

Regal Beagal
December 11, 2016, 12:54
Thanks everyone for the replies... Most of the once shot brass I have is LC stamped with a few PMC thrown in. The Lee dies I have are of the Pace Setter variety.. I'm still thinking about switching to RCBS dies just because of being able to tighten everything down vs. the Lees... Anyway, it looks like either way its better to have spare decapping rods on hand. Thanks Again!

December 12, 2016, 07:49
You should also Google "Harvey Hand Deprimer". Universal hand deprimer does 380 acp to 338 mag. Never broken mine but sure got it bound up a few times. Lee used to make (means they probably still do as never discontinue anything) hand decapping tools that case sits in a base and has a punch the you drive with a hammer. One of their "guaranteed for life" tools that have sent in for replacement half a dozen times or more. But are worth having on occasion with tough batch of cases.

Just like their sprue cutters on six cavity bullet molds that are prone to breakage a man can sped more on gas back and forth to the post office getting your free replcement. Finally learned to buy an aftermarket steel sprue cutter for all 30 caliber and larger six cavity molds.

Ran into a shop with several of the hand decapping tools gathering dust. Gave to a friend who is a heavy equipment mechaninc/custom knife maker/reloader with decades of experience in breaking stuff. He re-tempered/re-heat treated them to some specification he guessed would work and have yet to break but one though still find it easier to use a universal decapping die with plenty of spare pins most of the time. I always go with this method on once fired brass as much will last decades and starting with properly prepped primer pocket is time well spent.

Have 38 Special cases that have been in rotation since the 70's still. 140 grain wadcuttter pushed by three grains of Bullseye and run them till the sides blow out. Actually still have a few of the first 100 cases purchased at age 13 in the range brass mix. Have 1950's head stamp 45's that have seen umpteen loadings of low pressure rounds. Rifle pressures change the rules usually. You will learn where brass fails with experience but there is no hard rule. Have 30/30 and 35 Rem leverguns that shoot low pressure cast bullets through and cases last more loadings than can count. Have some rifles that fire new cases once at mid pressure for fire forming, prep, load twice and count myself lucky to get that second full pressure load out the muzzle without a loose primer then mash with pliers so someone doesn't get ideas to load a third time.

V guy
December 12, 2016, 18:36
I no longer resize 5.56.
Sending it out for processing and resizing, is cheap and fast.