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Old 07-07-2018, 02:44 PM
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Question 38Spec. Brass Brands Performance Comparisons

I find myself being inundated with different Brass Brands, as I shoot up my commercial stash of 38 Specials. When it comes to reloading I am finding it difficult double-checking my load charges, since the individual brass varies so much in weight.

Thus far my bare brass (NO primers) is roughly as follows:
  • Remington Nickel = 66.7---68.0 grains
  • Federal Brass = 64.2---65.3 grains
  • Fiocchi Brass = 71.0---72.5 grains
  • Starline Brass (reloads) = 63.5---63.7 grains

As you can see, some brands of brass vary by as much as 1.5 grains within the same brand.

NOTE: All reloads use same primer, powder, and bullets, except for different runs that switch from 125xtp to 158xtp bullets and proper charges.

I am choosing powders based on higher volumes, so that any errant double charge will over-flow the case and be easier to catch. I also measure individual charges ~1 out of 5 or 6 with my RCBS-505. I even tape-down the 505 after I have it zeroed, so that it does not slide on the bench and require another zeroing.

My concerns, aka questions, are as follows:
  1. What measurable difference is/can there in identical loads in different brands of brass?
  2. What measurable difference is/can there be in identical loads in same brand brass that weighs as much as 1.5gr difference between cases?
  3. What measurable difference is/can there be between identical loads in nickel vs brass cases?
  4. Have I missed anything obvious that I should also pay attention to?

My unfiltered thoughts are that if the primers, bullets, and powder are the same, then maybe the various brass brands are of no/low concern. What have others found and measured?
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Old 07-07-2018, 02:59 PM
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I would suggest that I have never given a moments thought to Questions 1, 2, and 3. I keep a minimum of 1-1/2" of powder in my powder measure when reloading.

For Question 4, I would verify Cartridge Overall Length every 100th round if you load cast lubed lead bullets. I ran 1,000 45 ACP in one batch and observed that OAL got shorter after 400 rounds because of excess bullet lube migrating to the seater stem.
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Old 07-07-2018, 03:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Engineer1911 View Post
For Question 4, I would verify Cartridge Overall Length every 100th round if you load cast lubed lead bullets. I ran 1,000 45 ACP in one batch and observed that OAL got shorter after 400 rounds because of excess bullet lube migrating to the seater stem.
Good catch! I forgot to mention that I actually do set and lock my digital micrometer to OAL and check it every load, as I remove the cartridge to place it in its new box. Only had my OAL change once, but it did show up and needed adjustment. Thanks!

As far as 1,2,3 then maybe having identical brass is more cosmetic than useful... hmm...
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Old 07-07-2018, 03:39 PM
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I have sorted rifle cases by weight but never gave it a thought on handgun cases. What concerns me is the occasional case that requires more force for neck expansion. This has got to result in more bullet pull and probably velocity.
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Old 07-07-2018, 04:10 PM
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The problem is case weight variations between brands does not tell you the capacity of the case.

If you want uniformity then stick with one brand and type case and the same amount of firings.

That being said its my understanding with rifle cases that you have to be shooting 300 yards or more for case volume variations to have a effect. And the case volume effects velocity and vertical impact on the target.

I remember reading a story about Elmer Keith shooting at a 55 gallon drum at 300 yards with a GI .45 ACP pistol. But he had a spotter and it took three shots to hit the drum.

And many competitive shooters are using range pickup brass and do not even sort the cases by head stamp.

So my question is do you have a rock steady bionic arm, and the eyes of a twenty year old?

Signed
A old fart who drinks too much coffee and needs Braille sights.

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Old 07-07-2018, 04:19 PM
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Bullseye shooters are always looking for any advantage to getting the smallest group possible. Every few years shooters try to reinvent the wheel, and look at case sorting, primer selection, flash hole cleaning, etc.
The top shooters use any good brass case, they don't care to separate their cases by brand. Has been proven too many times that cases sorted are not any improvement to groups size at 50 yards.
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Old 07-07-2018, 04:59 PM
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Perhaps, but it's important to remember that mixed brass will never be more accurate than sorted brass.
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Old 07-07-2018, 05:11 PM
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I usually keep boxes of brass together in a group to keep track of number of times fired. I've bought quantities of once fired brass and then sorted by headstamp into 100 round lots for tracking purposes. I'm not sure any of this is useful but I figure it doesn't hurt.

If you think you've double charged a load or missed a powder drop even a 1.5 grain variation in the lot of brass should allow you to identify any outliers pretty easily.

At the point where you're weighing every case and measuring every OAL that's taking it a little far. I check the powder drop and OAL every 100 rounds or thereabouts. I watch inside the cases to make sure the powder looks appropriate. I use a progressive press and honestly stopping to double check the powder weight is just inviting errors into the process.
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Old 07-07-2018, 06:20 PM
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Since you are worried about your brass ..............

Have you ever checked out the 38 special cylinder for accuracy/POA ?

Try five full cylinders of ammo five times with a light target load
with lead (if possible) and a medium Jacket loading so each cylinder
has placed its loads into one target for it.

If the cylinder is not accurate, why bother with the brass cases?

PS;
my cylinder is marked with finger nail polish.

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Old 07-07-2018, 07:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 22shtur View Post
Bullseye shooters are always looking for any advantage to getting the smallest group possible. Every few years shooters try to reinvent the wheel, and look at case sorting, primer selection, flash hole cleaning, etc.
The top shooters use any good brass case, they don't care to separate their cases by brand. Has been proven too many times that cases sorted are not any improvement to groups size at 50 yards.
Please point me to that, or any other similar data points. That is exactly what I am asking. Thanks!
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Old 07-07-2018, 07:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rockquarry View Post
Perhaps, but it's important to remember that mixed brass will never be more accurate than sorted brass.
According to...? All linked quotes to this data are appreciated. Thanks!
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Old 07-07-2018, 07:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigedp51 View Post
The problem is case weight variations between brands does not tell you the capacity of the case.

If you want uniformity then stick with one brand and type case and the same amount of firings.

That being said its my understanding with rifle cases that you have to be shooting 300 yards or more for case volume variations to have a effect. And the case volume effects velocity and vertical impact on the target.
...
Please point me (link) to where you found this info... Thanks!
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Old 07-07-2018, 07:26 PM
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Quote:
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According to...? All linked quotes to this data are appreciated. Thanks!
Think about it. How could it be otherwise? This can be verified with an accurate revolver by firing a number of groups from a benchrest using mixed brass vs. sorted brass.
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Old 07-07-2018, 07:49 PM
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Quote:
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Think about it. How could it be otherwise? This can be verified with an accurate revolver by firing a number of groups from a benchrest using mixed brass vs. sorted brass.
OK, so you don't have that information. Thanks for responding...
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Old 07-07-2018, 08:05 PM
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I think for most of us mortals you would not be able to tell the difference if you mixed your brass or not especially at shorter distances. If you check out the Bullseye-L Forum forum there is a lot of good information about 38 specials and accuracy. If your shooting a model 52 I understand they can be fussy. From what I understand some bulleye shooters favor specific bullets and brass when trying to get less than 10 ring accuracy for 50 yards. Personally I load them all and sort them after just because I am compulsive, not because I am good enough to tell the difference.
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Old 07-07-2018, 08:30 PM
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Elsewhere (cast Boolits comes to mind), a fellow bought 200 brand new Starline 30-30 cases, he took a very long time and made 100 perfect, same length, weight, etc. He cast several hundred Boolits, and collected 100 that matched and 100 random unblemished ones. He pretty much loaded the first 100 INDIVIDUALLY. Then the random 100 on his press.

He shot them at 200 or so yards.

Those he took extra care with were more accurate.

You could cover a three shot group with a quarter. On the random loads you could cover three shots with a Kennedy or Eisenhower coin.
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Old 07-07-2018, 08:42 PM
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Quote:
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OK, so you don't have that information. Thanks for responding...
I just provided the information. This is certainly nothing worthy of argument.
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Old 07-07-2018, 09:00 PM
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Understood Bob. Just trying to minimize some of the hard knocks learning at 66yr... ;-)
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Old 07-18-2018, 07:42 PM
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What I am gonna write down does not apply to rifle shooting.
Handguns I shoot offhand at 20 and 35 yds.I shoot at a 4 1/2''black circle and when I feel really hot,I replace it with a 2 1/2''black bullseye(but that's not too often neither the results too impressive!).
A few years ago,I became the proud owner of a .45 Colt.I bought 1000 Starline brass.The gun,being a Blackhawk with a convertible Acp cylinder,I can then compare if sorting brass makes a difference since my acp brass is a perfect example of a melting pot;over 10 different brands of brass reloaded I don't know how many times.To compound things,commercial brass mixed with military.You can't have it any better.
My findings;at 20 and 35 yds,and after many shooting sessions over many years,I can't see any difference comparing the multibrass acp with the ''all the same''brass .45 Colt.
A few years ago,Mike Venturino experienced the fact(which I've also checked and found to be true)that cast bullets with small defects exept if at the base of the bullet would all still fly true.He came to the conclusion that they wouldn't show any difference wherever the defect was(again exept for the base of the bullet).I can only extrapolate that,at the short distance we shoot handguns,brass(or other factors)difference does not account for a detectable difference.
Again,this sure does not apply to rifle shooting because of the much longer shooting distance.

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Old 07-18-2018, 10:05 PM
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In my experience, brass thickness and neck tension are more critical attributes of different brands of brass than weight or capacity.
Some brands of brass (most notably Remington) are noticeably thinner than others and will grip the bullet less firmly.
I sort my brass primarily for this reason and have observed a measurable difference.
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Old 07-18-2018, 11:18 PM
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Quote:
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Please point me to that, or any other similar data points. That is exactly what I am asking. Thanks!
Tony's Bullseye Blog: Repost: Consistency: The Product of Adhearing Together

Personally, I found myself with an absolute ton of .38 Spl cases--a few thousand. After cleaning, I sorted them by brand only (which isn't really much of a sort) into a few plastic jars about the size of coffee cans. I've got marked jars for Winchester, Federal, Remington-Peters, and Everything Else, plus a couple more partial jars of nickel'd Winchester, Federal, and Everything Else.

I don't think I gained a lot in accuracy (I'm only shooting these out to 17 or 25 yards), but the finished product looks very neat. There's much less variation in case-to-crimp groove.

I prefer Winchester brass above all others. R-P tends to have a soggier-feeling primer pocket. I don't know exactly why exactly I like the Federal less. Probably no particular reason. It took time to sort this way, but since my .38s are only going into revolvers, I only had to do it once.
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Old Yesterday, 06:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wise_A View Post
Tony's Bullseye Blog: Repost: Consistency: The Product of Adhearing Together

Personally, I found myself with an absolute ton of .38 Spl cases--a few thousand. After cleaning, I sorted them by brand only (which isn't really much of a sort) into a few plastic jars about the size of coffee cans. I've got marked jars for Winchester, Federal, Remington-Peters, and Everything Else, plus a couple more partial jars of nickel'd Winchester, Federal, and Everything Else.

I don't think I gained a lot in accuracy (I'm only shooting these out to 17 or 25 yards), but the finished product looks very neat. There's much less variation in case-to-crimp groove.

I prefer Winchester brass above all others. R-P tends to have a soggier-feeling primer pocket. I don't know exactly why exactly I like the Federal less. Probably no particular reason. It took time to sort this way, but since my .38s are only going into revolvers, I only had to do it once.

BINGO! Just what the doctor ordered...

The above answers my OP concerns. My OTHER concern, and the one that continues to raise its ugly head is... Total cartridge weight for a given bullet + load.

Why am I concerned:
  1. All completed cartridges look alike, other than brass brand.
  2. The weight differences in same brand loads can help detect differences 125gr and 158gr or heavier bullets.
  3. What if I miss-load a cartridge and don't "catch" it? Can I catch it "after" reloading?
  4. Different brass brand weights vary a lot between brands, and a just a little within one/same brand.

While I doubt that my own accuracy at the range will ever show with using Tony's Bullseye Blog, I just want to make sure and double check the accuracy of my reloading runs. Does THAT make me just "half-anal" or "completely-anal"?
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Old Yesterday, 07:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bobbyd View Post
In my experience, brass thickness and neck tension are more critical attributes of different brands of brass than weight or capacity.
Some brands of brass (most notably Remington) are noticeably thinner than others and will grip the bullet less firmly.
I sort my brass primarily for this reason and have observed a measurable difference.

+1^^^^^^

You should take a little time and play with a ballistics calculator and see just how much difference 75fps will affect groups @ 50yds. A list of lee cast bullets ceoficients.
38 Special, 38 S&W, 38 Colt New Police
358-105-SWC - .106
358-125-RF - .116
358-140-SWC - .142
TL358-148-WC - .072
358-148-WC - .072
358-150-1R - .131
358-150-SWC - .111
TL358-158-SWC - .117
C358-158-SWC - .117
TL358-158-2R - .207
358-158-RF- .160

That will give you an idea of the difference between case capacity/weights of the different mixed cases (volume).

Testing @ 50ft:
Bought a new 686 and wanted to work up some loads for it. I went thru all my 38spl brass and scrapped most of it & bought 2000 pieces of 1x brass. It didn't take long to find a couple of loads that would hold the x-ring @ 50ft.


Started testing plinking loads with 357 cases. Same revolver, kept getting groups like this @ 50ft.


Started over by going thru all the 357 brass and ended up throwing most of them out. Inspected by eye and tossed any that had small splits on the ends. Tossed all of them that were nickle and most of the nickle was wore off. Tossed all of them that had a ridge line forming at the bottom of the case. And then sized what was left and single staged them with an expander die and tossed any case that didn't have resistance. Wasn't much left, could of weighed those cases till the cows came home. Wouldn't of mattered. Ordered 2000 pieces of new brass from starline. Same revolver/same loads now shoots bugholes.
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Old Yesterday, 10:52 AM
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Having been a bullseye pistol shooter in a former life, my experience is that the quality of the bullet has the greatest affect on accuracy and is only noticeable at 50 yards and beyond. I used to sort cases by brand and times fired, but mostly that was for consistency of length. Looking back, it was probably a waste of time. I used to do a modest amount of machine rest testing with a Ransom Rest at 50 yds. Testing at shorter distances really doesn't indicate the potential accuracy of ammo at 50 yds and beyond. That being said, if you want to play around and weigh handgun cases, separate cases by make, length and times fired, uniform primer pockets and then test accuracy at short ranges...knock yourself out. It's your time.
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Old Yesterday, 12:17 PM
Wise_A Wise_A is offline
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Quote:
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The above answers my OP concerns. My OTHER concern, and the one that continues to raise its ugly head is... Total cartridge weight for a given bullet + load.
TL;DR is not really. The variation in bullets is usually +/- 1.5 grains or so. Even really low variations in case weight amounts to a couple grains. Add them together and you get enough to conceal a double-charge or squib of even a fairly heavy mid-speed powder.

For .38 Spl, I'm down to one charge--2.8 gr of Bullseye. I've loaded thousands of rounds with that charge, and never had a one weigh out to more than 3.0 grains or less than 2.7. I always weigh the first 10 charges, and then check every 10th charge after that. That was plenty to catch me when I got distracted talking to Wise_A Sr, and for some reason shut off the powder hopper and then failed to turn it back on when I started loading again. I only had to pull 10 cartridges and re-load them.

I still like having my cases sorted, though, even if I recognize it's not practical. It's nice to have ammo that looks as good as it shoots.

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Old Yesterday, 12:35 PM
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Started over by going thru all the 357 brass and ended up throwing most of them out. Inspected by eye and tossed any that had small splits on the ends. Tossed all of them that were nickle and most of the nickle was wore off. Tossed all of them that had a ridge line forming at the bottom of the case. And then sized what was left and single staged them with an expander die and tossed any case that didn't have resistance. Wasn't much left, could of weighed those cases till the cows came home. Wouldn't of mattered. Ordered 2000 pieces of new brass from starline. Same revolver/same loads now shoots bugholes.
The changing elasticity of the brass is enough to outweigh a matched headstamp and identical length/weight. That's what you ran into. You had brass that was dimensionally close to identical, but there was no way to account for the difference in the metal.
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Old Yesterday, 01:52 PM
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I can't add anything to the above posts, but personally, I think you are overthinking 38 Special brass. I started loading in '69 with a Lee Loader in 38 Special and although I now reload 12 or so different cartridges, 38 still is number one or number two on my list (.44 Mag is up there too). I some times sort by headstamp, just for uniformity, but never weighed a case. On occasion, out of boredom and wanting to keep my fingers in "reloading stuff" I have trimmed cases, "uniformed" primer pockets and one time I even deburred some flash holes. I have done my own "testing" of sorted vs mixed brass loads and for me I find no difference, but I shot them rested on bags. If I had a Ransom Rest, I might have (very slight possibility) seen a difference in accuracy.

One other item mentioned is using a bulky powder for "safety" reason. I disagree! I learned safety practices right from the beginning and I can choose any powder by it's performance, not to keep me from a dangerous mistake. My methods have kept me safe and my guns intact since 1970 when I had a squib. I have had no squibs since then and never a Kaboom, as I look in every case that has been charged with powder before I seat a bullet. (has worked for 9mm, 38 Special, 357 Magnum, 44 Special, 44 Magnum 45 ACP, 223, 30-30, 308, 30-06, 7.62x54, 303 British). Weighing finished ammo to determine powder charge is not accurate enough to be certain, too many variables...
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Old Yesterday, 03:44 PM
Marshal Kane Marshal Kane is offline
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Consistency is the key to reloading good ammunition. That means, same brand of brass, same OAL for consistent crimps, same brand of primers, same brand or source of bullets, same lot of powder. Bear in mind, after all that sameness, the biggest variable is the shooter. Are you willing to put in enough trigger time to accurately shoot your consistent ammunition? The very best ammunition made won't do a thing for a mediocre shooter and mediocre ammunition won't do a thing for a world class shooter. If you're new to reloading, turn out consistent reloads but bear in mind that trigger time is what makes your reloads worth the effort.
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