An ideal case trimmer provides precision, speed, and affordability. Here are some ideas on avoiding compromise. READ MORE
At some point, or points, cases need to be trimmed to a shorter length. Brass flows. Therefore, a case trimmer is pretty much a given in the tool assortment for any handloader.
There are needs and wants, realities and ideals. That’s true with many things, and applies often to reloading equipment. Ideally, a case trimmer will go beyond just trimming the case to a shorter length. They all do that well enough. I think it’s important that a case has a square mouth — dead flat across the top. This is an asset to getting a bullet started well into the case neck during the seating operation.
A Good Trimmer
There are a variety of trimmers available from most of the popular industry tooling suppliers. And most follow a pretty similar form and formula: a little hand-cranked lathe. In these, the back end of the case is chucked into a collet-type fitting. A caliber-size pilot that’s centered in and surrounded by a cutting head goes into the case neck and supports the front of the case.
Not nearly perfect! There are a few reasons and sources for reduced precision. The tool alignment may be true at each “end” of the trimmer, but the case we’re working with probably isn’t true. Mostly, since there has to be a gap for the pilot to freely rotate, and since case neck walls aren’t all consistent in thickness, the fit isn’t close enough to prevent out-of-round rotation. Along with the inevitable case body warp there’s bound to be a tad amount of wiggle. Since the case is supported only at its head area, not by its body, there’s flex afoot.
None of that means the case neck won’t get trimmed to a shorter length, which is the general idea. It does, however, mean that it’s not liable to be perfectly squared up.
A Better Trimmer
I rarely just overtly recommend one tool over all the others, but after a good many years working with case trimmers, I can and will tell you that the LE Wilson design is the best I’ve yet tried. I guess, yes, that is just opinion, but it’s really not.
The difference in this trimmer design is that the case is supported within a sleeve by its body. There’s no polarized suspension front and back. Mostly, there’s no pilot. The cutter on an LE Wilson faces off the front of the case squarely. The sleeve holding the case sit atop a pair of rails and the whole arrangement excludes case condition from the process.
So why doesn’t everyone use one? Honestly, I’m not entirely sure. It is a different arrangement, and it’s not cheap, especially not if you accessorize the fool out of it with a stand, a clamping device, and a micrometer. It’s not more than the other higher-end manual trimmers though.
It’s also fast! There’s no clamp-twisting to get the next case in place, and back out again. The sleeves are slightly tapered inside so the case is tapped in and then tapped out. With a little experience it’s amazingly quick to get through your block full of brass.
Virtually all case trimmers can provide additional utility, do different jobs. The cutter can be replaced with a reamer, and some can get reworked into outside case neck turners.
My choice is usually a stand-alone station, and that’s mostly because it’s pretty tedious refitting the appliances. I am, or at least have become, lazy.
As with all said about alignment for case length trimming, that is also all the same for using a trimmer for other chores. And, yes, I still think the LE Wilson works best as a reamer, for instance, and that is because all the alignment precision is built into the tool itself; the case doesn’t play a role.
About options, by all means fit up a “combo-head” if it’s available that will finish the trim with a nice inside/outside chamfer/deburr. Big time saver. These can be a trick to get set just right, but it sure saves time.
It sure is nice to get a break from the crank! There are, though, as I see it, two kinds of power case trimmers. Those that replace the hand crank with an electric motor and those that are designed from the start to be powered.
Some trimmers offer a means to add your own power source, like an electric screwdriver or drill.
My favorite proprietary power trimmer is a Gracey “Match Prep.” Designed by the late Doyle Gracey as a fast and easy way to trim huge quantities of Lake City brass for NRA High Power Rilfe shooters, it’s a serious machine. It works like a gigantic electric pencil sharpener, at least in spirit. Pick up a case and push it forward into a collar and it’s trimmed and squarely faced. No clamps or sleeves. The case shoulder stops against the inside of the collar, so it’s imperative that all cases are resized prior to use. As said last time, though, that’s really the only time you’ll get consistent results with any trimmer.
I don’t know how many cases I can trim in an hour because I’ve never spent an hour using a Gracey. I can easily do 100 in under 5 minutes.
Another very good power trimmer is the Giraud. Its essential means for and in operation are about the same as Gracey but it is a nicer package with more features. Gracey is pretty daggone simple. That’s not all bad. I’d say Giraud is the best, and its price does reflect that.
Again, it’s important to evaluate the overall condition of a batch of cases, related to how many uses they’ve had. Having grown a little longer isn’t likely to be the only thing that’s changed in a case that exceeds whatever limit you set for it.
And, speaking of, the “trim-to” length is usually 0.010 inches shorter than the maximum SAAMI-stated overall case dimension.
Next time we’ll look at tools used to treat the trimmed case necks and finish this task in fine style.
Check out some more options at Midsouth HERE
The preceding is a specially-adapted excerpt from Glen’s book Top-Grade Ammo. Available HERE at Midsouth Shooters Supply. Visit ZedikerPublishing.com for more information on the book itself, and also free article downloads.
8 thoughts on “RELOADERS CORNER: Case Trimmers”
Giraud power trimmer, the only way to go.
I went with the Giraud Tri Way Trimmer. A lot cheaper than the Power Trimmer
I’ve used the Forster Original for 35+ years. Upgraded it to the 3 in 1 trimmer head and for use with a power screw driver. Works great and quickly trims and chamfers the cases. I’m not familiar with the Wilson trimmer but in pricing the Forster the basic model is more expensive than the Wilson. Too old to switch to the Wilson but it may be the way to go.
As a prairie dog shooter I run through a lot of 223 cases. I did buy a Girard. It’s incredibly fast, and I’m really happy with it.
Another little tool that’s a timesaver if you are still trimming cases and then chamfering by hand, and can help accuracy is the Sinclair chamber length gauge. It’s a little slug like device that slip fits into the end of a trimmed extra short case. When you chamber that case the gauge pushes back in the mouth of the test case you can then measure the length of your chamber and that gives you your real maximum case length. All of my .223 chambers are much longer than the 1.760” spec. So, less trimming .
And yes, I’ve checked, some of my really accurate firearms shoot measurably better with a smaller gap between the case mouth and the edge of the chamber. Everybody has opinions, everybody has armpits, usually at least two and they mostly stink but those are mine.
Wilson… Sure… tap the case neck in then tap it out. That sounds like really precision gear… Not! Who has ever tapped the case out and then dented the rim on the neck? And who ever says no, they are lying. I’m happy with my RCBS works wonders and I can set it with my feeler gauge to 0.0005″ of an inch if need be. Anything that requires tapping in and tapping out is without a doubt a dumb solution for precision cutting. RCBS, Forster the way to go.
You completely forgot the Trim-It II, Worlds Finest Trimmer and the other of this type.
BTW , +1 on Wilson case trimmer. It is a great system for accurate, reasonably fast trimmer.
100 in 5 minutes, what for? You must have looked like a mad man. That is one every 3 seconds.
WCT ….World Cheapest Trimmer…. Find it on EBAY ….
All about speed and not handling repetitively.
Measures from shoulder not COL. So if you want 100percent control this is not for you…. you want speed and less work and totally with in SAMI… then rock this!
Should do a review with this included!