Anyone who’s reloading needs to think about brass prep. It’s kind of like prepping your car before a paint job- if you don’t take the time to do prep right, you will not get the desired result. The first step is getting your hands on some brass. You can buy new brass, buy once-fired brass, pick up brass at the range, or shoot factory ammunition and save the brass. Unless you’re reloading brand new factory brass, you’ll need to prep the brass. This post will give you a 411 on that process.
Let’s get this sorted out…
One of the first things you’ll need to consider for brass prep is inspecting and sorting your brass. If you have a bag of once-fired 9mm brass, this includes taking out all of the 380 auto that might be mixed in. You don’t want that 380 auto getting lodged in your sizing die (rim doesn’t catch on shellplate in that case ). At this time, you’ll likely separate nickel plated brass from bare brass, and also look for damaged brass. If you’re picky (or loading for competition) at this time you may also sort by headstamp.
Make sure it’s Clean
In order to ensure that you don’t scratch your dies, and to avoid a mess, you’ll need to start by cleaning the brass. There are several ways to get this job done including vibratrory tumblers (shakers), wet tumblers, and ultrasonic cleaners to name a few. When you’re done with this step, your brass will be ready for lube.
Case lube for pistol loads is required if you are not using a carbide sizer die. But what about case lube when you are using carbide sizing dies? I tend to use case lube on all pistol loads. Light film lube (like Hornady One-Shot) does not require much effort or post-loading cleanup, and it does make the press operate more smoothly. A smooth press is a happy press, and it allows the operator to “feel” when something goes wrong more easily.
Other prep steps
There are some other brass prep steps that can be performed for pistol brass, but these are not usually required. These additional steps include:
- Depriming and cleaning primer pockets
- Trimming brass
- Removing primer pocket crimp (for military brass)
Like most reloading tasks, brass prep is a personal thing. What one shooter finds important will not necessarily be important to another shooter. Enjoying brass prep is all about workflow for me. Here are some tips that will help you be an efficient brass prepper:
- Bag up your brass at the range and label it. This will help you decipher what is what when you get home.
- Tumble brass in separate lots if needed. I have a bulk quantity of Starline 357 Magnum brass, and a bulk quantity of mixed headstamp 357 magnum brass. I keep these bagged separately and tumble them in separate lots to avoid the need for sorting after the cleaning process. This saves me time.
- When sorting/inspecting, make yourself comfortable. I tend to sit on the couch with my bags of brass and some Akro bins while sorting. My wife appreciates it when I put a towel in the bins so that the plinking sound is minimized when I toss them in.
- Store your brass in clearly labeled bins that stack. Partially transparent bins can be helpful so that you can see how much brass is in each bin. It’s like a quick-glance visual inventory system. If you have special notes for a bin of brass, write it on a piece of paper and place it on top of the brass (lubed, trimmed, etc).
- Stage your brass prep. I tend to save up lots and do bulk quantities of cleaning, sorting, etc. This can help increase your efficiency.
How about you? Do you have tips or techniques to share? Please drop a comment!