Excited to get started loading, I grabbed some .223 Remington brass that had been sitting for months since being sprayed down with lube. I prepared to validate my powder charge by running a single cartridge through the RCBS Pro 2000 progressive press. I pulled the lever to size the case, and *POP*, when trying to lower the ram I heard the awful sound of the case rim being torn from the case.
At that moment, I started humming the “Stuck Case Blues”.
Well, so much for my “quick loading session” I thought. I decided this was a good time to head over to the metal lathe for a “bulk stuck case removal session”. I had one RCBS X-die in .223 and one Hornady .223 full-length sizing die, both with .223 cases stuck in them. Time to do some maintenance!
I performed the two case extractions, using the home-grown metal lathe method that I documented here, and then got ready for my reloading session. It’s a pain in the neck to have to deal with this kind of issue, but it also goes with the territory. Having said that, the best approach is to avoid stuck cases when possible. Here’s some tips that will help you do more loading and less extracting: (most important for full-length rifle sizing)
- Use a good rifle-duty case lube. On the spectrum of “light stray” to “heavy wax”, favor the heavier thicker liquids and pastes. Rifle case sizing is a demanding task, and you need a high-performance lubricant that is up to the task.
- Don’t force the press. This is always a good rule to follow, but when sizing rifle cases this is especially important. It takes a lot of force to size certain types of rifle cases (large, long, bottleneck cases particularly) but if you have to press “too hard” something is not right. Stop, inspect, and proceed with caution.
- Use generous/thick lube on the first case for your loading session. Your sizing die needs to be “primed” with lube for the first case sized. This priming process creates a film of lube on the inside of the die that is “maintained” by the lubed cases that are run through the press.
- Lube cases before loading. Don’t rely on case lube that was applied previously- it could be evaporated or solidified. Applying fresh lube will ensure that your cases are ready to go, and won’t stick.
- Lube generously, tumble off the lube. You need to be careful not to over-lube (you could dent shoulders), but you also need to ensure that cases are adequately lubed. You can feel the difference between an adequately lubed case and an under-lubed case. I use generous lube, and then tumble my completed cartridges in corncob media to remove the lube.
- Use smooth non-jerky motions when operating the press. If you avoid jerky movements, you’ll prevent spikes in force that could increase the likelihood of sticking a case.
- Use a high-quality sizing die or polish your sizer die. You can tell when inspecting sized cases that some reloading dies have a better internal finish than others. A better finish inside your sizing die translates to less friction, which translates to less force, which translates to less stuck cases and smoother sizing.
These are the basic guidelines that I observe (most of the time) to avoid stuck cases. When I don’t – I can expect a stuck case! Know of good stuck-case prevention tricks? Please share!