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08-29-2012, 11:03 AM #1
Why not reload steel? Looking for some substantiated engineering thought. Not opinion
So I got back from a match recently and did my normal process of picking out the steel from the range pickup brass. It was much cleaner than normal range brass because it typically landed on a blue tarp and was then picked. Up.
Usually steel is easy to see because of the corrosion.
Occasionally a shiny piece of steel would slip through my QC bout would be caught when the berdan primer stopped me cold at the first stage with my Dillon 650.
So anyway I got nice fresh brass and decided to tumble it and reload this right away. I save once fired in my own gun for use for matches. I'm not doing anything anytime soon, so this would be a good way to turn unknown brass into known brass. Its my method, it may not be rational, I realize that.
So I crank out a couple of hundred rounds and give it a once over and find a round that has been reloaded with a steel case. Hmm. I got on a chair and looked into the hopper on my 650 and found a couple of unloaded, cleaned steel cases. A quick look confirmed they were boxer primed.
Well, to make a long story short, I picked the steel out and didn't use it. Then the next day when I was at the range I was collecting my brass and found that I had accidentally fired 2 or 3 pieces of steel reloads.
Inspection of the case showed no problems.
So . . . whats the problem with reloading steel. Its not like its necessary.
I'm not looking for "why bother there's plenty of brass". I know that. This is a question seeking answers to the physics and the metalurgy of why or why not to reload steel.
08-29-2012, 11:17 AM #2
- Join Date
- Nov 2010
I'm no engineer, but the first two non-opinion related thoughts that enter my mind are:
1. Steel is not as malleable of a metal as brass. It will not take the sustained sizing/firing/re-sizing cycles that brass will.
2. For the same reason listed above,(malleability), steel is going to be brutal on your dies, even carbides, shortening their service life.
08-29-2012, 11:19 AM #3
I know guys that reload it.
My experience is that the steel splits after a couple of loadings, and when reloaded and fired again, can expand to the point where it won't extract.
Back in the 80's, I got my first carbide sizer die (in .30 Carbine) and reloaded a bunch of steel cases. Three of the first 20 or so rounds I tried to shoot ended up stuck in the chamber with their rims ripped off. The third one broke the extractor.
Cartridge brass alloy is pretty consistent and predictable. On the other hand, there are 100s of different steels, with very different properties. The cases you picked up might work fine, and you may be able to reload them a dozen times without incident. The next ones might be a nightmare. Or maybe not. Mine didn't work all that well.
The world won't end if you get some steel mixed in and reload it (hello S&B Range-Safe 9mm), but I usually sort carefully enough to remove the steel.
ETA: I wouldn't worry about it wearing out a carbide sizing die because carbide is much harder than steel. The expander and crimp dies are a different story though. Again, a few here and there will probably be fine, but I'd be curious what a steady diet of steel would do to them.
Last edited by EddieCoyle; 08-29-2012 at 11:32 AM.
08-29-2012, 11:47 AM #4
Item 2 makes a lot of sense and sounds like a decent reason to consider not reloading steel. Although I'd be more worried about the steel dies, not the carbide resizer.
Eddie - whats the working pressure of .30 Carbine? .45ACP is somewhere around 15,000 psi. I think I'm going to pull out the Tulamo .45s in my unsorted brass and see how they do. Thats what that nice looking steel case above has on its headstamp.
I've heard VERY good things about the hornady steel match. I'm guessing thats nice stuff also.
Last edited by dcmdon; 08-29-2012 at 11:50 AM.
08-29-2012, 11:59 AM #5
- Join Date
- Feb 2010
- Granite State
during manufacture steel cases go through 3-steps of heat treatments. I don't remember exactly at which point those treatments are applied, but it's done to condition properties of the alloy throughout the manufacturing steps.
there is an low-res video floating around on runet that shows the process of making steel-cased 7.62 round. has no English subtitles or anything like that but process itself is pretty self-descriptive. i'll post it here IF i can find it. it was from those ye-oldy days before video-streaming became a common practice. you actually had to download it so you can then watch it on you Windows Media Player 1.0.
here is the torrent:http://torrents.ru/forum/viewtopic.php?t=327911
not sure if it's the same one but better than nothing.
here is another one. this is more modern one though:
At the workshops for the production of ammunition is hard to talk - here is an incredible roar. Approach the presses is not recommended either. The temperature inside reaches 800 degrees Celsius. Then the "glass" - blanks for cartridges - get on a special line where acquire recognizable shape - with arms and dulcitol. After crimping Dultsev pruned. Then sleeve washed in sulfuric acid solution and send to "rest" in the oven to remove the strain of the metal.
Left sleeve equip capsule, powder fill and connect with a bullet. Over dosage of the following techniques. Each holder of about 3 grams of powder. Similarly, make ammunition for sniper rifles - enhanced accuracy and armor-piercing. The difference is in the pool. This armor-piercing bullets with tempered steel core, which can penetrate steel plate 6 millimeters. SWAT uses cartridges for the silencer. This is a piece-goods, which is done by hand.
Before heading to the store, products are subject to strict control. Each staff member examines a shift 40,000 rounds of ammunition. Then the part of the party sent to the testing laboratory. Here cartridges is first heated to 50 degrees, and then freeze - up to minus 40. After the bullets are shot in the dash. With the help of special computer checks sensors powder gas pressure in the pocket and velocity. Only then will send products to the customer. If multiple defects found , the whole batch is destroyed.
Last edited by dnepro-mike; 08-29-2012 at 12:18 PM.
08-29-2012, 12:06 PM #6
Last edited by EddieCoyle; 08-29-2012 at 01:20 PM.
08-29-2012, 12:52 PM #7
Brass is very ductile to start so when cold working it by resizing you gradually change the hardness and make it less ductile. You could say it's increasing the strength as well but that is negligible because the brass is chambered when fired. So back to hardening from cold working. As the brass gets harder the ability to recover from elastic deformation decreases. If you can imagine the brass being like your bed mattress and when you sit on your mattress it deforms then recovers when you get up, brass does something similar but on a very small scale. Like your mattress over time you end up with permanent deformation from use. Eventually the brass cracks because the final resizing or fired pushes it beyond recovery point.
Steel is much harder to begin with and the dies are designed with the elastic deformation of brass in mind so you won't necessarily size the steel case correctly which is why EddieCoyle had issues chambering steel case reloads. In terms of ware on the die lets scale this in simple terms. Lets give brass a hardness of 1. Crappy steel is a hardness of 2. That's 2 times harder than brass. Sounds like a lot. The hardness of your carbide die is 180.
Just my $0.02Beer in the making
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08-29-2012, 01:16 PM #8
If brass has a hardness of 1 and steel engineered for ductility for case use is a 2. Where would the STEEL dies used for crimping fall?
08-29-2012, 01:19 PM #9
08-29-2012, 01:37 PM #10
I'm more thinking of them getting scratched than actually getting worn out of spec.