Reloading the .257
Weatherby ...in excruciating detail Part I
Joseph D'Alessandro Editor |
someone rolls into my driveway with a 1968 Fairlane Torino, in
search of a pickle fork to repair a broken ball joint, I've got the situation covered.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, my collection of esoteric tools has also
over to my reloading activities, at least to the point I no longer
recognize many of the items residing in my supply cabinet. The cause of
the lapse in tool memory isn't all bad news; as I work to improve the quality of my
handloads, the really useful tools stay in front of me all of the time,
and the more interesting but useless gadgets get pushed to the background
where they are eventually forgotten.
I thought I might create an opportunity to
advance the .257 Weatherby Magnum handloading project, and simultaneously step through the routine that's developed in my own
handloading as I've gained more practical experience. Recognizing handloading,
like religion, is a deeply personal and spiritual experience, please feel free to laugh at, or ignore,
any of the following information.
Press Selection - It's
not the price...it's the value
As a reality, expensive tools rarely result
in proportionally better quality output. Most expensive automated and/or
are designed to spare the reloader from boredom born of production monotony,
and not to make better performing ammo. At the height of equipment
capability and cost, I'm sure it's a reasonable expectation that the
handloader can: reload ammo, eat a baloney and mustard sandwich and watch
reruns of the Soprano's while creating ammo with most of the right parts,
in most of the right places.
own several presses, both single stage and progressive. At the left is a
picture of the press that yields, for me, the best quality ammo and the best range
results. The simple RCBS Rock Chucker
super sturdy and easy to use. Available
through many Internet discount retailers for about $90, including freight, or about $240 less than a new RCBS
Pro2000, or about $1million or so less than anything painted blue.
The only suggested drawback to a single stage
press is that dies must be changed, in proper sequence, until all phases
of handloading are complete. A progressive press, supposedly, keeps all dies
mounted in a plate, while the
cartridges rotate from one station to the next until complete, but without
following a proper reloading sequence.
The progressive press
typically begins with a combination decap and size, then automatically
rotates the case around to a new primer, powder charge and seated
bullet. Briefly, you can't properly clean and inspect a case unless
the spent primer has been removed from the primer pocket, so a decap should
be immediately followed with clean and inspect. Sizing stretches
cases, so sizing should be followed with case measurement, and possibly
trim, to insure the case is within overall length spec. You could interrupt
the process of a progressive press to accomplish these tasks, but then you
would have effectively created a single stage press.
Yes, when using a single stage
press, at each operation I have
to change the die two or three times per session, depending
on the cartridge, but I always have absolute control over the sequence of steps in the
reloading process. There is no such control with an automatic progressive
press. I can decap, tumble or soak cases, inspect, size, trim, prime,
charge and seat a bullet - each step accomplished on the best possible
equipment for the job, on or off the press, which is why I currently load all rifle cartridges with a
Rock Chucker. This isn't an ad for RCBS, each major equipment manufacturer offers
a very heavy duty H or C type
single stage loading press.
Where to begin, where to
you've missed me saying it before, I'll say it again, I really like the
little Weatherby Ultralight in .257 WM. Over the past weeks, I thought I
had made a sufficient number of trips to the range, to generate
enough empties for an expansive experimental handloading effort. Not so, I
had to supplement my stash with some overpriced Weatherby brass.
The handloading process began
with a big pile of once
fired Weatherby brass, and unprimed new Weatherby brass; the first
requiring decapping and cleaning, the second needing cleaning to remove
the manufacturing process oil film. I decided I needed to start my loading
session by putting all the brass in the same decapped and empty condition
When a primer is fired, this
initial pressure backs it out of the case and up against the breech face.
Next, the main powder
charge rapidly burns, builds pressure, and drives the case back over the spent
primer. During the primer/case separation, combusted primer compound
works its way onto the face and walls of the primer pocket. If the pocket
isn't cleaned, compound residue may cause the new primer to not seat property
or may obstruct the flash hole, and cause a misfire.
Rather than subjecting a
decap/sizing dies to a dirty case with grit that might damage the die, or
put case lube on a dirty case, I invested in a universal decap die.
Unlike a standard combination decap and sizing die, the inside of the
decap die is hollowed out, rather than machined to follow the outline of
the cartridge. A decap rod extends through the top and runs the full
length of the die. The button on the end of the decap rod is less
than .021" and will clear even a .22 centerfire neck without
is an easy die to use in the Rock Chucker. Select the correct shell holder
for the cartridge. Here I'm using a #4 holder which is correct for any cartridges
that is derived from the .375 H&H.
The die is screwed into the press until it is 1/16" above the raised
ram. The decap pin is adjusted until it protrudes to the flat of the shell holder.
The pin should protrude only enough to knock out the primer, but not so
far that it deforms the flat or web surface at the bottom of the case. Decapping
is a fast operation.....maybe two or three million
decaps a minute, if you're paying attention. No I don't know what
that means but I'm really running behind deadline.
Here's a closer shot of the
spent primer and the gunk left inside the primer pocket. The next step
should be case cleaning rather than using a pocket brush on the residue.
At this stage the residue is pretty thick, so some preliminary cleaning
will make brushing a minimal effort. Typically, tumbling would provide the
preliminary cleaning, but tumbling tends to take a long time, the process
work hardens the brass, and rounds over rims, case mouths and extractor
grooves. In addition, while tumbling medium like walnut or corn husks tend
to make the outside of the case look nice and shiny, they don't do a whole
lot for the inside of the case where burnt powder deposits
You can never clean cases
Casey Brass Cartridge Case Cleaner is a little different than most liquid
cleaners. As an example, this cleaner is not used in conjunction with a waterproof
tumbler or drum, so the cash outlay for a cleaning setup is very low. The
cleaner is about $8 for 16 oz., and 16 oz. is suppose to clean 8,000
medium size cases - that's about 1/10 of a cent per case.
Case Cleaner isn't a petroleum
based product, but rather an acid wash, consequently it has it's own set
of safety rules that must be followed. I found it was easy to handle, and
did not present a problem in normal use. My wife insisted the last label
caution precluded my use of the product, but then......she isn't the boss
The typical mix of this
concentrate is 2 oz. per quart of water. I had no problem cleaning 60
cartridges at a time in this much solution. I'm sure a plastic pail of the
stuff could be used to clean hundreds of cases at a time, since there is
no fuming or unpleasant odors.
Obviously, I went for the "price is no object" approach for my
cleaning containers. Two of these, one for cleaning, one for pouring off
the cleaning solution from the brass, set me back almost $3. I
picked this type of plastic container because it provided a wide mouth for
loading, and the small pop cap for draining. The whole cleaning cycle
takes 3 minutes with agitation each minute. The solution never darkened
more than the picture to the right; at first I thought the stuff wasn't
working. Wow, my use of punctuation is terrible!
When cleaning was complete,
the external surface of the
cases were spotless and as polished looking as tumbling would have left them.
There were a few cases that still had some minor residue in the
primer pockets, but this was minor and certainly less than found with tumbled
cases. A quick hit with the pocket brush removed whatever material was left. Big
surprise inside the cases; no burnt powder deposits, the cases looked like
new. One very important note, do not attempt to proceed with loading until
these cases are completely dry. You can speed the process with paper
towels and a hair dryer, if you still have hair or know someone who does,
but one drop of water in the powder or primer and the sound of a falling
hammer is all you'll be hearing when you pull the trigger. I wiped my
cases down and left them out overnight to dry.
is probably a good place to take a break, before I launch into another
mind numbing installment regarding fired and new case inspection. I'll
leave you with the thought that the items on the left are the minimum I
use for visual inspection after cleaning.
The small bore light is
directed through the primer pocket so I can looking into the illuminated
case and check for cleanliness and internal case damage. The magnifying
glass and loop are used to check for fine cracks, deformed headstamps and
damaged primer pockets. The extended paper clip is used to
"feel" inside the case for radial pressure cracks. The
.0001" incremented mic is used to measure belt and above belt
diameter increases after firing, as an excessive pressure reference. More
of this exciting material and the balance of empty case prep when I
strike...err write again.
.257 Weatherby Ultra Lightweight":
up Day for the .257 Weatherby Ultra Lightweight
selection for the .257 Weatherby project
Weatherby handloading assessment
Weatherby Mark V .257 WM at the range
the .257 WM ...in excruciating detail Part I
the .257 WM ...in excruciating detail Part II
Data 257 Weatherby Magnum