RELOADERS CORNER: When You Can’t Always Get What You Want

And here’s hoping that, if you try sometimes, you get what you need. Sorry Mick. READ MORE

weigh brass

Glen Zediker

Yet one mo time: the topic for Reloaders Corner comes from recent letters on a topic, and this time it’s brass. Specifically, some were asking me about this and that such and such brands of brass that I’d had no direct experience with. The reason for the question was because my long-standing and well-known in-print recommendations had, for these folks, just not been possible to find. They were, by the way, looking for “good” brass, which can mean different things, but mostly new cases that were going to be consistent and had nothing that wouldn’t recommend them, if that made sense. If it didn’t, it means that the cases weren’t unusually hard or soft, or expensive, or, generally, exhibiting low or quirky quality.

These were competitive shooters, NRA High Power Rifle, by they way.

Anyone who’s read much from me on this topic knows I’m partial to American-made cases, WW in particular, and also (now) Nosler. Nosler isn’t cheap. You would also know that I am not a fan of European brands. I have used and continue to use a good deal of Lapua because I have a good deal of it, but it tends to be virtually perfect in dimension but soft in composition. And, gas gun or not, I do not like soft brass.

For this next to be as helpful as I’d hope it might be, the circumstance is this: We are going to try a few before we commit. We’re first going to buy a box before we get a case.

So after opening a container of new brass, how do you know “what you’ve got”? Have to find some way to measure it, then measure it, and start quantifying its quality or suitability. There are a few different checks myself and others make that provide numbers we can use to represent consistency. For the most part, and this will likely get the most support in agreement from others reading this now, case wall thickness consistency might well trump other checks that can be made. Of course (of course) there are tools that make this job — measuring wall thickness at 4 points around a case neck — easier and faster. Related but not exactly the same thing is running the new cases through a concentricity fixture (a “spinner”) that will show how much runout a case neck has. To make that truly reliably viable, though, all the cases much first be sized to round out the case neck cyclinder. That might not be such a chore, though, because in fact all those cases are going to need sized before they can be used. Otherwise, and this takes only a quick look to know, new case mouths are usually bent up and not nearly ready to accept a bullet.

There’s another way. Weigh them! Weigh them all. After a few tries and a few notes, you’ll get an idea of what represents the higher, lower weight range. Moving them into piles, a pattern, I guess we could call it, shows up. As with any segregation, the tolerance you’re setting determines on how many piles, but I suggest and try to keep it to three. Separation increments that are realistic and influential for case weight segregation varies on the physical size of the case and, of course, the tickiness of the operator. Again, though, if you weigh 100 cases and you have your numbers and your piles, you’ll start to see how both your criteria and your test pieces are relating. If your piles have cases that are under 1.0 grain difference each, meaning less than 3.0 grains total weight variance, that’s good! Really good. There are other surfaces (case rim for instance) where a little more or less material here and there contribute to the weight.

weigh cases
Weighing is going to be a little faster check especially when there’s a good number of cases in the mix. A good electronic scale makes it way on easier.

Weight is not (not nearly) an indicator of case wall thickness consistency. Well, or if it is, that’s sho not what the scale is directly showing you. It’s also not a direct indication of case volume, or of anything else for that matter! It is only showing a weight on each case. However! Over almost a half century messing with all this, I can tell you that — for some reason — it does without a doubt matter! It may only be some sort of clue to the “overall” quality of manufacture, I honestly don’t know.

I suggest it as an alternative to more “direct” means to gauge case quality just because everyone has a scale and initial weight readings are fairly fast and decidedly easy to take.

Now. Read just a little on this on the interweb and you’ll see weight segregation is most often discounted heavily as a viable criteria. As with much of what else you’ll read on the interweb it tends to be posted by folks who are long on opinion and short on resume. Right. They know it all but don’t actually go out and win anything.

weigh cases
Don’t confuse segregation means with segregration criteria. Case weight is not the same as wall thickness. Sorting by weight says you found the cases that weighted more nearly the same. They will, I assure you, shoot better than employing no segregation means.

One last, speaking of folks with impressive resumes, I know a good number of shooters on the U.S. Palma Team. These folks are all big into weight segregation. Since “real” Palma is fired with drawn ammo, the proven best way to find out which rounds in a box are going to shoot the closest together is simply to weigh all the loaded rounds and separate them by weight. That’s proven to do better than any other means for measure. It honestly does work for cases too.

The preceding is a adapted from information contained in Glen’s newest book America’s Gun: The Practical AR15. Available at Midsouth Shooters Supply. Visit for more information on the book itself, and also free article downloads.

9 thoughts on “RELOADERS CORNER: When You Can’t Always Get What You Want”

  1. I weigh pistol rounds I make on a progressive press for safety. I am looking for a variation from the average close to the weight of a powder charge. After 30 years of loading on a single stage press, I cannot bring myself to completely trust the progressive. It is quick to do with an electronic scale.

  2. I weigh each case bare. I then prep my cases by using a full length sizing die (I use Redding competition dies), run a mandrel into the case mouth, I neck turn my necks, I use a VLD camper tool and do the outside neck, clean primer pocket w/ brush or 21st Century primer pocket cleaner tool which is awsome, trim all cases to same length with Sinclair ultimate case trimmer, prime, powder, weigh, install bullet and weigh. I weigh to AVOID A DOUBLE POWDER CHARGE. Fool me once.

  3. To determine consistency? Why not get with the manufactures and see what criteria they use to determine consistency? And of course the parameters they consider acceptable. I understand what the author is conveying and value of such, however starting out talking about wall thickness and ending up simply using weight differences does not adequately solve the issue at hand. While “like wright” cases group more consistently, it does little to answer the original intent of the article as there are too many variables.

  4. I weigh everything but primers. Have one rifle that is very sensitive to a difference in brass. Point of impact will vary 3 or 4 inches at 100 yards for a small difference in weight (wall thickness/case capacity). It’s true there is probably more variation in the amount of brass in the base of the cartridge, but it seems to work. All cartridges are also checked for concentricity. After this article, I’ll probably be trying to figure out how to spin brass.

  5. I weight sort my rifle cases too. Some believe it is a waste of time. But, since it my time to wast as l see fit, l do it. However, l only do it AFTER a full case prep. I want them as close alike as possible before the weighing begins.

    I start with 300 to 500 unfired cases from the same lot.
    1. Partial full length resize all cases in the lot.
    2. Square the primer pockets.
    3. Internally clean the flash hole.
    4. Trim all cases to the shortest length in the lot.
    5. Lightly champfer and debur.

    At this point, brass has been removed in all steps except number 1. And they are all as physically alike as l choose to make them. I do not neck turn, but understand why competion shooters do.

    When you do all the trimming after weight sorting, then the cases will all be different weights when you are ready to use them. And that is what l want to avoid.

    Does it matter in my hunting loads? I like to think so, which increases my confidence in them. But, the bottom line is, it is my time to waste as l see fit, and l waste it prepping and weight sorting. Best of luck to all of you.

  6. Look, I’ve only been successfully handloading for 50+ years, and I was a little bit confused by your post. So are you suggesting that we weigh cases after we’ve done all our case prep, or after we’ve
    dropped the powder and seated the bullet?
    Probably incorrect by your statement, weighing the case before dropping the powder and seating the bullet may be irrelevant.
    It is just over many years I’ve read that keeping the weight down for non-belted magnums down to “X”, and standard case down to “X”. I must acknowledge that none of this nonsense is relevant in the field. Which is where I’m at come hunting season.

  7. I am new to loading only been doing it for the last five years. I really love it and find it relaxing. Recently out of the blue I had a thought I should start weighing bullets , and my brass. It is amazing the weight differences in bullets by manufacture. However my cases are pretty consistent when measuring rifle bullets by manufacture. I really pay little attention to handgun brass but my rifle I starting segregating by weight and lenght what a difference I found in my groups. This article set my thought process straight, when it comes to loading I will never not weigh my brass again.

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