Lake City .223 brass vs production date

Discussion in 'Reloading Forum (All Calibers)' started by Sieg, Nov 4, 2019.

  1. Sieg

    Sieg

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    I've been a varmint (digger squirrel) hunter in Central/Eastern Oregon for 26 years now and have been saving the majority of my .223 brass. This is all Black Hills Blue Box Lake City, approx. 5k+ rounds. I'm just starting to sort it out and a quick inspection shows head stamps from 87-06.

    I'm under the assumption that Lake City is for the most part decent .223 brass.

    Is there known years of exceptional or mediocre Lake City brass?

    Is weighing a method of determining quality?

    I'm not shooting formal sanctioned competition just a monthly 100/200yd match at my local range. The important serious competition is with my annual varmint hunting group of 26 years.

    I recently bought a new Tikka T3x .223 Varmint and put it in a KRG Bravo with Athlon Ares ETR scope with a lighter trigger spring and the gun is shooting respectable off a Harris bipod with 69g Federal GMM (7-shot .73" @200y) so it's accuracy potential is baiting me back into reloading after a 30 year hiatus of centerfire rifle reloading.

    I've spent many hours researching new reloading equipment and techniques since the last time I had the band together loading for my '84 Ruger M77 Varmint in 22-250. To date I've purchased Hornady headspace, comparator, and OAL tools for starters.... but the foundation of it all starts with the brass in my opinion.

    This forum possesses a wealth of experience and knowledge and I genuinely respect and appreciate what I've learned to date.

    Your input is appreciated.
     
  2. RegionRat

    RegionRat

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    The only real way to know, is to test.

    For example, set your accuracy and precision goals for the performance of the ammo/gun system, and then see if unsorted but properly prepped brass makes you happy.

    If not, then you have to determine if the necks are to blame or if this is due to case body issues.

    I have used new virgin Lake City brass, as well as my own 1X Black Hills brass fired in Service Rifle chambers, and have had no issues with accuracy when they have been properly prepped.

    Will you be loading these for a bolt gun, or AR?
     
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  3. Uncle Ed

    Uncle Ed

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    I buy once fired Lake City 5.56 and 7.62 brass because I think its better than the average Remchester brass.

    Below Lake City brass has the hardest brass, meaning long lasting primer pockets.

    [​IMG]

    Below the Lake City cases have better than average case weight uniformity.

    [​IMG]

    And below because Lake City uses harder brass and not thicker brass the cases have the most case capacity.

    [​IMG]

    I would sort the cases by head stamp year, but I have not seen enough case weight variations to matter between years. Meaning Remington and Winchester cases would have more case weight variations even from the same lot.
     
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  4. jepp2

    jepp2 Gold $$ Contributor

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    I consider LC (any years) to be better brass than current Winchester, Remington, or Hornady. Case neck thickness variation is where it fall considerably short of Lapua.

    You are more likely to see variations from the machine it was produced on, than the year it was produced.

    If you are weight sorting LC brass to get more consistent case internal volume, you are wasting your time.

    The only real issue I have with once fired LC brass (fired by the military), is depending on the temperature it was fired, I have encountered excessive losses due to enlarged primer pockets. When I buy a case of XM193 loaded ammo, if I don't fire it below ~50°, it will show signs of excessive pressure in my AR's (brass flow into the ejector and some enlarged primer pockets).

    I ran a case life test using range pick up once fired LC brass. Annealed every 5 loadings, and got as many as 35 firings on the brass - shot only in AR's. And none failed due to case stretching from the shoulder set back.
     
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  5. GSS

    GSS

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    Awesome Info Uncle Ed
    Thanks for posting all in one post.

    Sieg,
    For 100 - 200 yards, with your equipment and purpose stated above I would wager you would never tell the difference on target if you sorted the brass into .5 grain lots and trickled powder to the .001 grain as if you just sorted brass by year only and loaded on a progressive press to; prime, throw powder and seat bullets.

    I have used Lake City Brass for Service rifle since around 2003 with years ranging from the 1970's to present.
    My measurements mirror what Uncle Ed posted above with around a max weight spread of 2.0 - 2.5 grains.

    For 200 and 300 yard offhand slow fire and rapid fire stages I load all progressive in non weight sorted LC brass.
    My 200 offhand slow fire and sitting rapid are still works in progress but I have many, high X cleans in the 300 rapid fire stage with Iron sighted A2's in years past and 4x power scopes more recently. All shot probe with a sling.. No bench, bipod or bags for me at yet at the ripe medium well age of 59.

    That Tikka looks like sweet rifle!
    George

    Edited to Add;
    None of what I wrote likely applies if you are shooting Benchrest or belly benchrest.

    I know next to nothing about the ammo needs for either of those classes. Saving those games for when I'm too old for the physical and mental challenges Service Rifle requires to do well.
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2019
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  6. Sieg

    Sieg

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    My primary varmint rifle is an Olympic Arms Ultramatch I bought in '92 and just re-barreled with a Kreiger 1:7.7 x 22" Varmint profile from Compass Lake. I have my original RCBS AmmoMaster that I may set up to load bulk varmint rounds for the AR. I'm thinking 60g flat base varmint bullets and ball powder to minimize variation with the Uniflo powder measure for the first test.

    For the Tikka T3x Varmint the current plan is to use my original RCBS Rock Chucker and purchase a FL bushing die and micrometer seating die. I'll spend more time on brass prep, sizing, and neck tension with this rifle since I do shoot it in informal competition and my #1 competitor shoots a Cooper Model 21 in .223, it happens to be on of the first 25 produced and it shoots!

    Damn Tikka is dragging me down the rabbit hole!

    Thank you for you input.
     
  7. Sieg

    Sieg

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    Uncle Ed - Thanks for the data, you pretty much confirmed that the LC brass should be good enough for who it's for in this case.

    My plan is to start by sorting it by year, then measure random samples by weight and neck thickness and see what I find.

    Appreciate your time.
     
  8. Sieg

    Sieg

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    jepp2 - Thank you for the insight.

    I'm not on Lapua budget.....yet. I'll be buying a ball mic to check case necks, that may lead to a neck turning set up also for the Tikka. I view concentricity and consistent neck tension as a critical accuracy component.

    I agree with you on weight sorting/internal volume. I'd rather produce softer loads to improve throat life as I won't be shooting ELR. The informal matches are limited to 100/200yds, 400-500yds is as far as I'll go shooting sage rats and the majority is 100-300yds. I have all the current .17 rimfires for the 50-200yd shooting.

    Great insight on temperature effects and annealing, thank you.
     
  9. Sieg

    Sieg

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    George, great real world information, thanks!

    The Tikka really surprised me, I consider it one of the best values out there. The machining, function/feel, and initial accuracy with 69g FGGM is impressive.

    On the bench I shoot the Tikka off a Harris bipod and Protektor rear bag. All my competitors are using formal rest setups. I like the underdog role so to speak. I didn't start shooting bench stuff until last year so my techniques are still a work in progress.

    I test my sanity shooting my Vudoo .22lr off a formal rest setup with flags..... with the inconsistent swirling winds, creek, and berm at our range it's more like going down a badger hole than rabbit hole shooting rimfire. o_O

    This group with 69g FGGM is what started the quest....
    [​IMG]

    This was the setup
    [​IMG]

    Thanks again everyone, I really appreciate the assistance.
     
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  10. PRR1957

    PRR1957

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    The graph that Uncle Ed posted of brass case hardness showing Lake City brass cases being the hardest is from the brass having a higher Zinc content. Commercial cartridge case brass alloy is 80% Copper, and 20% Zinc. Military/NATO, including Lake City/LC, or Winchester Cartridge Company/WCC, 5.56x45 cartridge case brass alloy is 70% Copper, and 30% Zinc. The reasoning is that,
    1-Military/NATO 5.56x45 is loaded to a chamber pressure of 62,000 PSI were as commercial 223 Remington factory is loaded to a chamber pressure of 52,000-55,000 PSI. (An AR “NATO” chamber will have a longer free bore which allows for a higher 62K PSI chamber pressure. An AR with a shorter free bore “Commercial” chamber or a “Wilde” will require loading in the 52K-55K PSI range unless one is loading for a modern bolt action rifle where the strength of rifle can handle a higher 60K + PSI chamber pressure.
    2-Military cartridge case have to endure a combat environment, so the harder brass ammo will not dent as easily so as to mitigate jamming while chambering a round.

    There should be no concern as for production dates for Lake City cartridge brass cases as they are extremely consistent from batch and from year to year. The only brand of brass cartridges that is more consistent in dimensional uniformity and brass hardness is in my opinion is, Lapua.
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2019
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  11. Rsadams

    Rsadams

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    +1 on this also.... A few days ago I loaded some .223 in Hornady once fired brass I somehow had and I won't be doing that again... I left them on the ground.... I normally use lake city brass and will be staying with it for .223/5.56 stuff...
     
  12. Sieg

    Sieg

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    I purchased 700 rounds of Federal 69g Gold Medal Match. Based on my research it appears the majority feel the Federal brass is soft junk.... is the majority correct in their opinion? Or is it worth reloading a few times?
     
  13. Uncle Ed

    Uncle Ed

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    Federal has a reputation of soft brass, but it has to do with the flash hole web thickness that adds strength to the base of the case. I had a large batch of 09 and 10 marked Federal cases and many of them had oversized primer pockets after the first firing. At AR15.com the reloading moderator had a sticky on how to check the cases using a 2 inch rod and vernier calipers to measure the web thickness. I got tired of checking all the cases for web thickness and now just use Lake City brass.

    You could section one of your Federal Gold Medal cases and check the web thickness and see if the cases have thicker webs. Or you can use pin gauges or Ballistic Tools primer pocket gauge and check primer pocket diameter.

    [​IMG]

    Some commercial companies like Winchester and others have contracts to make ammunition for the military. And their cases have to meet military standards meaning the same standards as Lake City cases.

    [​IMG]

    NOTE, the commercial .223 and the military M193 are loaded to 55,000 psi SAAMI pressure standards. BUT the newer military M855 with a 62 grain bullet is loaded to 58,700 psi SAAMI pressure standards. And my point being you will not find a stronger case than Lake City brass.

    Below the milspec requirements for a 5.56 case showing the hardness gradient and web thickness requirements. Click on image to enlarge.

    [​IMG]

    Below a photo that was posted at AR15.com and the effects of loose primer pockets.

    [​IMG]

    I was reloading for three AR15 rifles and one belonged to my son and "DAD" wasn't going to be blamed for a scored bolt face. I used a Lee depriming tool below to check any loose fitting primers, and if the primer moved with just finger pressure that case went in the scrap brass bucket. Brass is a expendable item and Lake City once fired brass is a fraction of the cost of new brass and made Ford Truck Tough. ;)

    [​IMG]
     
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  14. Uncle Ed

    Uncle Ed

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    Below a photo by the moderator Dryflash at AR15.com and using a two inch rod to measure the flash hole web thickness. The base of the rod was drilled out and cup shaped to fit over any burs in the flash hole.

    Federal brass has always had a reputation for soft brass, "BUT" it is my experience that the flash hole web thickness is the problem with short lasting primer pockets. Meaning radial expansion of the base of the case when fired. I have also read in forums that some types of Federal cases do not have the "soft brass" problem.

    Therefore if you have 700 Federal cases I would recommend checking the web thickness. And even if these cases have thinner flash hole webs just do not load "warm" and check the primer pockets with a gauge before priming.

    [​IMG]

    Below the effects of high pressure, soft brass and thin flash hole webs. Using Quickload my load of 25.0 grains of H335 with a 55 grain FMJ in my AR15 and the chamber pressure is approximately 50,000 psi. And my Lake City cases die of chewed up rims and split necks and not loose primer pockets.

    [​IMG]

    So just remember most Zombies are shot at 50 yds or less so max loads are not needed and all you need to do is keep your bullets in the red. :)

    [​IMG]
     
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  15. Sieg

    Sieg

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    @Uncle Ed - Thank you for taking the time to provide an educational answer to my questions. I learned a few things that I didn't know in my 61 years and it's very much appreciated.

    The PMC case specs interest me as I have 1 case each of PMC Bronze in .223 and .308. Based on the accuracy of the ammo it's 'OK' for providing cover fire. I assumed the brass would be substandard but the info you posted has me curious.

    I haven't heard of anyone on the forums reloading it, is that due to public shaming fears? :)

    Is PMC brass worth reloading?
     
  16. AJC

    AJC

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    Wow that's huge money. Could have reloaded a lot.
     
  17. Sieg

    Sieg

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    $0.79 per round delivered isn't that expensive in my book. It took me all of 20 minutes to process 700 rounds. :D

    Reloading equipment and supplies aren't exactly cheap if you count every nickel. I honestly factor the equipment and component costs, my time to research/prep/process, and range trips to test ammo and find it's far less expensive to buy loaded ammunition.

    Accuracy OCD is the only reason I'm starting to reload again..... and I had honestly forgotten how much time it consumes. Reloading is a huge hole that swallows money and time. :)
     
  18. searcher

    searcher Gold $$ Contributor

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    One thing of minor concern is how the primers were staked into the LC brass. While I have not had bad experiences with any years of LC brass, there was one or more years where they staked the primers with four distinct indentations which form a square around the primer. Most years have a circle around the primer from a round staking tool face. I think 2012 or 2014 is one of the years that has the 4-jab stake. Not a big deal but even after reaming the pockets with my RCBS bench-mounted primer pocket swager, the jab marks still make for less than smooth primer insertion as opposed to the round staked pockets. While I wouldn't turn down the "jab staked" brass - I'd prefer the LC that is not.
     
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  19. XTR

    XTR

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    I have used mixed early 90s LC brass in my 223 FTR loads for yrs. I’ve been able to consistently shoot HM scores and shoot cleans when the conditions allowed.

    I don’t sort at all. Ive never felt that the points I dropped were due to brass.
     
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  20. Sieg

    Sieg

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    Thanks for the insight.
    In my last few days of sorting and vibe media cleaning I haven't come across any 4 corner crimped pockets. All the LC brass I've sorted to date (approx. 1.25K) are in the date ranges '83-'06, with some as low as '68-'73. I'll definitely avoid the 4 corner stake and cash it in at the recycler. Thanks again.
     

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