If you want maximum precision out of your rifle, a combination of fire-forming and handloading is a great way to achieve that goal. When you fire a cartridge in a rifle, the brass expands to the exact profile of the chamber its being fired in. This is why sizing is necessary as a part of the reloading process. The “expansion” of the brass needs to be “squeezed back” to dimensions that are optimal for both chambering and and bullet seating/press-fit. In this article, I’ll walk through the process I’m using to fire form brass for the Ruger Precision Rifle (.243 Winchester in this case).
Fire forming is not only a good time to form-fit your brass to your rifle, it’s also a good time to perform other tasks at the same time. Getting trigger time, working up initial load data, and testing out other gear (such as getting your scope dialed in and zeroed) are all activities that you can perform while fire-forming. You may even be surprised at how well your groups can look before the 1st reloads with fire formed brass are completed.
Here’s a quick overview of the press setup I’m using for these fire-forming loads:
As you can see here, I’m using a Hornady Lock-N-Load AP 5-station reloading press. For .243 am using a #1 shellplate which works with a large number of cartridges including 45 ACP*, 30-06, .308 Winchester, 22-250, and many others!
*Hornady also has a “45 ACP optimized” shellplate, #45 which can work better with 45 ACP
Here’s the per-station overview for the setup I used in this article:
- #1 – Hornady .243 Sizer die: Since I’m using brand new brass, I’m only using the ball expander for the neck. This ensures proper bullet seating tension/fit. Expander-only action is achieved by backing off the sizer die until you don’t feel the majority of full-length sizing force.
- #2 – Priming: At the bottom of the stroke, the case is primed (for all setups on the Hornady Lock-N-Load AP).
- #3 – Powder Charge: Here I’m using the stock Hornady Lock-N-Load powder measure which comes with a baffle. This is a great metering setup for precision loads.
- #4 – Empty (not used)
- #5 – Hornady .243 Bullet Seater die: The Hornady bullet seater works great for precision rifle because of its sliding collar design which ensures optimal concentricity. As a bonus, you can install a micrometer seating stem for easy and precise adjustments of bullet seating depth.
This fire-forming loading setup ran very smoothly! .243 Winchester loads great on the Hornady Lock-N-Load AP. For subsequent loading of this brass (not fire-forming or “new brass” loads) the only change I have planned is the sizing die setup. I’ll experiment with bushing sizing dies and neck-only sizing dies, should be fun!
The day I performed this fire-forming it was REALLY hot out as you can see here:
I was getting so much mirage from the ground heat I wasn’t able to focus on groups, it was more an exercise in not melting under the sweltering sun. I guess it was good to be fire-forming and not having “lofty shooting goals” that day. Now I have a pile of fire-formed brass to start honing in on the perfect loads. Stay tuned for more .243 Winchester and Ruger Precision Rifle action!