Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Reloading Limits

A question that regularly comes up is how many times can you reload range brass. Being the consummate cheapskate, I should be able to tell you but unfortunately I never marked any of my ammo in such a way as to be able to keep track of it. What I have found out is this:

The life of a casing unsurprisingly, depends on the material and the load. Brass casings with low power loads last a good long time, although less in a carbine where the pressures get higher. For fun I reloaded some aluminum casings and kept track of them. In a pistol they lasted 3-5 cycles before they began to split. In the carbine only 1-3. If you need ammo and have nothing else, this can serve, just keep in mind not for long. I've had some brand new aluminum ammo blow out in the carbine on the first shot.

I have 500 rds of ammo, loaded to very mild levels for use in the pistol which I rotate through and 300 rds also modest power, for the rifle.. This also makes keeping track of it difficult since I generally use about 80 rds at a match, reload that and refill the 100 rd box, then put it into the rotation. Thus the first 80 rds in each case have seen the most use, and the last 20 or so are probably still in pretty good shape.

I've been averaging about 3 boxes a month x 80 rds/box for the last 3 years, and I can tell you the stuff is overdue for retirement. The first clue is when you finish up a stage and the SO says “unload and show clear” and you can't get the bolt to extract the last cartridge from the chamber by pulling it back. There is likely nothing wrong with the extractor, just the cartridge is now so out of spec that it's been press fit into the chamber. Definitely time to retire that one. This implies that the brass has been through the gun once a month, for the last 3 years, minus a few canceled winter matches, or 25-35 times over its life. To be conservative, and using modestly powered loads, I would venture to say that 15 reloads is probably about it, after which you'll begin to have trouble extracting unfired rounds from the gun. I've not had any of the brass cartridges split on me, but this is masking the problem with overly reloaded brass. It works OK when you fire it and almost always gets ejected that way. When you start to see failure to eject or experience difficulty extracting an unfired round, this is a hint that your brass is in need of a trip to the scrapyard.

1000 rds of S&B .40 S&W from Lucky Gunner costs about what it would cost me to make if I had to buy everything, including the brass. If I keep my losses to a minimum, that's about 4 months supply. If I don't lose too much, I can reload it 10-15 times and get the price down to manageable levels, and not wind up shooting worn out ammo. Even adding in shipping and taxes (~20%) and limiting reloads to 10 times, I'm still not doing too bad.

Anyway, now you know.

1 comment:

Merle said...

I put a label on each box to record the load data, and include te number of times reloaded. I also finish off the box, so that all 100 rnds are the same vintage....
Guess I am just a fanatic about small details....