Tips for Preventing Stuck Cases

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!

223 stuck dies
.223 Remington dies with stuck cases – drilled out and ready for tapping – Image copyright 2012 Ultimate Reloader

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)

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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!


14 thoughts on “Tips for Preventing Stuck Cases”

  1. Gee, what a coincidence, I also was de-capping, sizing and trimming .223 cases in preparation of doing some serious re-loading. Got the first 500 rounds sized and trimmed. Started the last batch today, applied lube, got a stuck case on the 10th one. Removed it and continued on making sure there was plenty of lube. The cases were not quite swimming in it, but there were puddles of it in the tray I was using. Two more cases later, another stuck case and this time the bearing puller won’t remove it. Looks like the dies get a trip back to RCBS.

    Merry Christmas to you Gavin and everyone else at Ultimate Reloader!

  2. Rough finish on the inside of the dies? Cases dirty? I do wipe my cases off before the reloding process

    I’ve had very few stuck cases in resizing die/s….and honestly never a 223/5.56 whether military or comercial. I have had a couple or so resizing 30-06 which was my fault…did not lube those cases and got distracted but…and I know I’m a broken record here…I just unscrewed the collet holding the decapping pin/expander from my Lee Precision F.L. resizing die and a piece of wood/ball peen hammer and used little taps..out came the stuck 30-06 cases. Thinking back…I did screw back on the collet where it was level with top of thread part of shank of expanding rod for a tpping platform.

    I’ve used Lee Resizing lube exclusively now for many many years and this stuff just works.

    As far as 223/5.56….military or commerical or steel (Yeah…I reload Tulammo/Wolf 223 steel cases…these are boxer primed mostly and use the Lee lube for this and never had a stuck steel case either!!) I full length resize only…for now…working on building a 223 bolt action and is in progress of such!! I will then neck size only for the bolt action. Point is…I’ve never had problem using Lee F.L. resizing die/s and Lee case lube…except for those noted and those were actually easy to remove with process noted.

    Recommend changing your case lube over to the Lee…and/or changing over to Lee dies?

  3. Correction…you cannot screw the collet back on expander ball…I thought on that one since it has been many years ago now that I last experienced a stuck case…I remembered I used a brass pistol case to protect the decapping rod shank….sorry about that.

  4. You might try synthetic moyor oil. 1000s of rounds and no stuck cases. Can’t say the same for other lubes. The down side is you have to wash brass before loading.

  5. Update;
    Will try the synthetic MO, Stuck brass in both Full Length & Small base sizer. Brass was easy to remove, but also broke Horady Base Plate (ouch)! Re-installed single stage (RCBS) and was getting stuck cases ever other case. Had to stop.
    @ Curt B, all brass was de-capped and tumbled for four hours so was nice & shiny, cleaned dies after each stuck case.

    Conclusion, will try Synthetic MO first, if no luck, will first send dies to RCBS for servicing and then try Lee lube and possibly dies.

    Other returns this holiday, base plate #16 to Hornady, and de-capping pin to Lee (strange boxer brass, pin hit side of flash hole and bent outward, not inward)

    This is really making me feel like a klutz!

  6. Woo Hoo! Got the remaining 500 pieces sized, used 5-30 Synthetic motor oil. They’re soaking in soapy water now. Tomorrow a rinse and then tumble.

    Further update: when the base plate (#16) on the Hornady Lock & Load broke, it also took out the small primer seater, go figure. They go back to Hornady tomorrow.

    Curt B & GW; thanks for your help during this Christmas Season!

    Looks like the progressive press will only be used after brass is sized and tumbled.

    1. Ain’t it the pits having problems when you get intot the mood for a long reloading session and then wam!! Monkey wrench gts thrown into the process.

      Good to hear the synthetic oil is working…..I’ve been tempted to buy a sonic cleaner since this would cut my clean time down plus it will make my ammo look better.

      Have fun!!

      Here we go again with component shortages!!! I would hope that suppliers would limit primer orders…I knew of people ordering 100,000 primers plus as frequently as they could…they were reselling the primers at a huge markup and people paying were the Extortion Money.

  7. I use a RCBS case lube die in front of a Dillon Case Trimmer, mounted in a Dillon 650XL. Just fill the brass hopper with clean brass, plug everything in and start slingin’ brass……

  8. ….forgot to mention that after sizing and trimming, then removing crimp(if there is any) I clean lube off by running brass through sessions in the ultra-sonic cleaner.
    Ready for reloading.. By the thousands……..

  9. ……one more additionto lubing brass. find and use a water soluble lube.. the solution will last longer before renewing……

  10. I’d caution against tumbling finished cartridges. The same action that cleans the outside of the case could remove the finish of the gun powder inside the case – which may affect powder stability, shelf life, or burn rate.

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