Ooops: A reloading story.

In anticipation of going target shooting this weekend I sat down the last couple of evenings to get some ammunition made. I have been reloading for a few years now and it usually goes well, I enjoy the satisfaction of shooting my own ammunition and it has always performed excellently.

These are the first match rounds I have reloaded since I came to the USA and my recipe has altered slightly. In Scotland I used Lapua Scenar bullet heads, however they cost a bit more here than some of the alternatives. After taking some advice I bought some Hornady A-Max, but it turns out that they are not allowed on the 300 meter range at the Minneapolis Rifle Club due to their thin jacket. The electronic targets used on that range have an enclosed acoustic chamber and the A-Max are known to disintegrate after passing through the face of the target causing unnecessary damage to the rear wall and the operation of the scoring system.

Therefore I recently purchased some Sierra Match Kings which I was assured would pose no threat to the technology. This however is not where the problem occurred.

On Tuesday evening I sat down to prep 200 of my brand new .308 Win Lapua Match cases. I used these in Scotland and was very happy with their consistency and performance, and unlike the Scenars there is no premium for using Lapua cases in the US.

I got set up and started running the cases through my Lee full length sizer die (I tried neck sizing my cases once, which resulted in me having to buy ammunition at the range in the middle of a detail, and later dismantle all the neck sized cases I had left because they wouldn’t chamber in my rifle). In the beginning I noticed some light scoring on the necks of the cases but it didn’t seem significant, so I continued.

Anyone who does it will know that reloading can get a little repetitious, especially when you work with a single stage press, it is easy to tune out and just go through the motions. I would also like to add in my defence that I am currently studying for a Masters degree and have been a busy boy recently, working long hours at school and not always getting as much sleep as I need. The result of these excuses is that it wasn’t until I had sized around 90 cases that I paid attention and had a close look at the case I had just removed from the shell holder. The light scoring had changed to heavy scoring.

Lapua .308W neck scoring. 5th Feb 13

Lapua .308W neck scoring. 5th Feb 13

I wasn’t very happy about this.

I tried my best to clean out the die, but nothing changed. In the end I sized the last few rounds of the first 100 but decided not to do any more. As far as I can tell my die is damaged, but I have no idea how this has happened. I reloaded 50 rounds in November to zero my hunting rifle but they had no marks on them like this.

If anyone reading this has an explanation I would be happy to hear it.

Yesterday I ordered a new set of RCBS dies that I hope will arrive early next week. I am planning to shoot again next weekend and I will need more ammunition. It may be that my Lee die has a build up of copper fouling which could be removed, but new dies wont hurt and they are probably better than my current dies which are pretty basic.

I am down the cost of a new set of dies, and the life of these cases is probably reduced, but I have been reminded of an important rule when reloading.



Update on 11th Feb 2013

Unfortunately due to a winter storm the 300 meter match was cancelled yesterday, I include a snippet of the email I received:

Match cancelled - suggest eat comfort food

Match cancelled – suggest eat comfort food

A sensible decision, I didn’t want to get stuck in the snow in the middle of nowhere, but I was very keen to shoot. There is another shoot next weekend that I hope to attend if I am able. I will let you know.

On the subject of my scratched cases, my friends Niall and Charles had a chat about it but were unable to come up with an explanation. Their advice is to make sure I clean everything before use and get a new die. Which I have ordered and will hopefully receive today.

Fingers crossed for a snow free week.


3 comments on “Ooops: A reloading story.

  1. Niall says:

    Hi Will,

    Well, both Charles and I had a look at your cartridge and agreed that we had never seen anything like it. I must have let some grit into my re-sizing die some time ago and I started to get shallow and random scratches on the case necks. I tried looking into the die with a loupe but could see nothing untoward. Next I tried fine emery paper which did improve things but the only answer was a new die. The grooves in yours were so deep and regular. Perhaps you picked up sand at some point. Moral is clean everything prior to use plus check visually after each operation.

    All a bit academic here as it is ages until the open air season starts; I’m fed up shooting 10 bull cards.



    • A says:

      Hi Niall,

      Thanks for the information, I am glad I am not the only one confused by this. It just seemed to come on so suddenly, no sign in the previous batch then this. Hopefully my new RCBS die will arrive today and I can ditch the offending item.

      Unfortunately the shoot was cancelled yesterday due to a snowstorm which was due (and did indeed) hit at about lunchtime yesterday. I can understand your 10 bull frustration. Although I haven’t even shot a 10 bull since I got here and the small bore range is not an all weather facility.

      My best to Charles and love to Dorothea,



  2. […] after the problems with the neck scratching (see here) I bought myself a new RCBS die set. This came and in anticipation of a shoot on the 12th may I […]

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