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Reloading 5.56 NATO ammo?


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#1 NJdiverTony

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  • LocationHunterdon County, NJ
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Posted 02 April 2012 - 10:56 AM

So, I just recently built my new AR15 carbine and having a blast with it so far... I bought some bulk XM193 and XM855 ammo, but seeing that ammo is both getting expensive and also somewhat scarce lately, I'm thinking about reloading this kind of ammo. I currently have a Lee Classic Turret press and reload 9mm and .45 ACP handgun ammo with great success. I've never loaded rifle ammo before, so was wondering if anybody can give me some advice to get me started? Is it worth reloading 5.56? Is there a big savings, like the savings I see when loading pistol ammo? I know that reloading rifle ammo is a bit more complex than loading handgun ammo, but not exactly sure on how much more complex... Anyone have any information here to help me out?

Thanks,
Tony
Tony

#2 Dan

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 11:07 AM

I reload rifle brass in my single stage Co-Ax. The big difference over straight walled cartridges are that you should always measure the empty shell length and be sure it is within specs. If not you have to trim the shell with a trimmer. You will also have to deburr the inside and outside of the mouth after you trim the case with a deburring tool, and you will need to clean primer pockets on all shells with a tool.

With 5.56/.223, or most any SA rifle for that matter, you have to be careful of two other things... Those are proper crimping so bullets don't get pushed in when cycling, proper primer depth to avoid slam fires, and using the proper primer. Some rifles you should use a tougher mil-spec primer like the CCI #41 for small rifle. This is due to them being able to deal with floating firing pin slight impacts during cycling.

I've learned everything from the forums or forum people helping me out, along with reading my reloading manual (which you have to do no matter what)!

#3 Pizza Bob

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 11:13 AM

Any body recommend the use of small base dies for reloading for an AR, or any SA rifle for that matter?
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#4 Sigman

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 11:22 AM

I reload .223. The only thing I do different from pistol is trim the rifle cases and deburr the edge. You'll find with the 5.56 cases (mil spec ammo) that the primers are crimped. I use a deburring tool and hit the primer pocket with a couple of twists so I can fit the primer. You don't need to take much off. Just enough to fit the primer. Some people don't like this method and say it weakens the case. I've had no problems so far shooting moderate strength. There are tools made to ream the pocket, but I haven't found a need.

.223 or 5.56 is relatively cheap when bought in bulk, so the price savings won't be that great. You need to bulk buy the reloading components to save more. At least you'll be able to make your own In the event of an ammo shortage.
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#5 raz-0

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 11:36 AM

Can you save a lot reloading .223? yes. It is time consuming though. Especially the initial brass preparation if you are starting with brass that has crimped primers. Short of spending the cash on a super 1050 set up for .223, I'm not sure much beats batch reloading on my turret where I can seat and crimp in quick succession.

For blasting ammo, you probably do not need to chamfer and clean the primer pockets like Dan suggests. You definitely don't need to chamfer, just make sure it is trimmed to length. If you are loading flat based bullets, you will WANT to chamfer. To reduce trimming ot length chores, there is the RCBS x-die, which is designed to prevent case growth due to resizing. It works reasonably well. There are a bunch of people who basically go through the initial case prep, Run it through the x-die, and if it is out of spec toss it under the assumption that means they have reloaded it about 5-6 times. The use something like the possum hollow trimmer for trimming quickly, and buy once fired brass to start without a primer crimp or with the crimp already removed.

I can't say I've found the optimal setup, but I can say if you are going to batch load there is some gear I have found to be stand out in terms of performance.

-RCBS trimmer with 3-way cutter. Without dropping serious cash on a giraud trimmer, or a 1050 with the power case trimmer, I have not seen a faster way to trim and chamfer cases.
-hornady lock-n-load powder measure. I haven't found a better powder measure for the money. There are better, but you jump form $62+/- to about $150 with a very small gain in performance.
-satern funnels. They are aluminum and brass. Yes you will go WTF?!?!??! $12 for a funnel? I will guarantee you that they are worth every penny over a "static free" plastic funnel. With a stick powder like varget, it cut the time to drop each charge easily in half. For a fine ball powder like BL-C2 or TAC, They are nearly as fast as gravity. (literally, I had to take the reducer for small neck brass out of my powder drop to avoid ahving to wait on the powder measure).

I've got a bunch of other .223 reloading gear, but largely it is interchangeable with lots similar stuff from multiple manufacturers.

If you are nervous starting out, varget and 55gr bullets are a pretty safe combo. I don't think you can actually fit enough powder in the case to hit max pressure for the bullet. Metering it is a giant PITA, as is trying to gets consistent OAL curshing the powder for a compressed load, but serious over charges are NOT happening with it.

#6 raz-0

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 11:42 AM

Any body recommend the use of small base dies for reloading for an AR, or any SA rifle for that matter?


YES!

You probably won't get in trouble with a normal one on a loose 5.56 chamber, but a small base will work with most everything without significantly impacting brass life (assuming youa ren't going down the road of annealing your cases). I'm getting near my second round of reloading, and if my brass attrition is consistent, all my original brass will be gone in less firings than I'd worry about.

Also forgot about savings.

I can reload nice accurate 55gr polymer tipped bullets in processed once fired lake city I throw away over a charge of TAC and appropriate small rifle primers bought when I hit cabelas for approximately $440.00 per thousand. You can do a case of 77gr SMK ammo for about $530 per thousand. And that's being lazy. If you can manage to keep enough brass to average 3000 loadings out of 1000 initial pieces of brass (i.e. average 3 loadings per case, load some more, some less due to loss), You can shave $100 off those prices.

Lazy method with cheap 55gr bulk bullets, it's about $350 the lazy way, and $250 if you average 3 loadings per case. Wolf is $210, but it's significantly better ammo than wolf and kinder to your barrel, extractor, and ejector. (DIY ammo is about MOA out of my gun, current production wolf 55gr is between 2-2.5 moa form the same gun/shooter/optic combo. Velocity is similar, but mine seems to generate slightly more gas which drives the comp better IMO, but it's close).



#7 Dan

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 11:58 AM

I've been using Varget with my .223 loads as well. My Lyman #55 powder measure hates Varget with a passion, I bought a cheap Lee Perfect Powder Measure, which has no trouble with Varget and works well. They are cheap enough that you could buy one , set it and leave it for just loading .223. That is unless you want to change powder or charge amount...

#8 GRIZ

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 12:10 PM

YES! You probably won't get in trouble with a normal one on a loose 5.56 chamber, but a small base will work with most everything without significantly impacting brass life (assuming youa ren't going down the road of annealing your cases). I'm getting near my second round of reloading, and if my brass attrition is consistent, all my original brass will be gone in less firings than I'd worry about.

I disagree. I've been reloading 5.56 for almost 40 years for a variety of SA and bolt rifles and have had zero problems using standard dies. There is also some brass out there that will result in a case stuck in the die (yes I know how to lube cases). There may be some. SA rifles that need SB dies but I haven't encountered them in the 5.56, 270, 308, or 30-06 rifles I've used in nearly 40 years.

#9 Old School

Old School

Posted 02 April 2012 - 12:39 PM

Any body recommend the use of small base dies for reloading for an AR, or any SA rifle for that matter?


Bob - I use Dillon carbides and don't need to use a small base die.
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"Life's journey is not arriving at the gate safely in a well perserved body, but rather to skid-in-sideways, totally worn out, shouting...holy *...what a ride!"

Peace is that brief glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading.

#10 Old School

Old School

Posted 02 April 2012 - 01:45 PM

I'm pretty sure nobody here loads 5.56 NATO. We all load 223 Remington.

We may load Nato cases but the first time you run them through a die it's no longer 5.56 NATO.

Here' the reloading cost break down for run of the mill 55gr FMJ 223 Rem reloads Armscor 55gr FMJ / 24.5gr W748

Cases - free
Bullet - $ ,087
Primer - about $.025 (prices vary Wolf $19/1k, CCI $30/1k
Powder - $ .07
____________

Cost / round $ ,182
Certified GLOCK Armorer

"I only got two things, my word and my balls, and I ain't breakin' either for nobody" - Tony Montana

"Life's journey is not arriving at the gate safely in a well perserved body, but rather to skid-in-sideways, totally worn out, shouting...holy *...what a ride!"

Peace is that brief glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading.

#11 Vlad G

Vlad G

Posted 02 April 2012 - 01:53 PM

Hmm then why does my load data say 5.56 NATO? The primary difference is not the case sizing but the pressure, which can be 6000psi or so higher in 5.56 then ,.223

#12 NJdiverTony

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 02:00 PM

Thanks for the info guys.
Tony

#13 Old School

Old School

Posted 02 April 2012 - 02:11 PM

Hmm then why does my load data say 5.56 NATO? The primary difference is not the case sizing but the pressure, which can be 60,000psi or so higher in 5.56 then ,.223


You're right about about the pressure, there are subtle differences in case dimension, more distinct differences in chamber dimension.

Reference the load data you have because they may say 5.56/223 but I suspect it's not REAL NATO spec data. Because the publisher's liability would be too high. I suspect it is SAAMI data.
Certified GLOCK Armorer

"I only got two things, my word and my balls, and I ain't breakin' either for nobody" - Tony Montana

"Life's journey is not arriving at the gate safely in a well perserved body, but rather to skid-in-sideways, totally worn out, shouting...holy *...what a ride!"

Peace is that brief glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading.

#14 Vlad G

Vlad G

Posted 02 April 2012 - 04:06 PM

Hmm no. The case dimensions are identical (or within the tolerances for such) the big differences are chamber cut in the leade area, and the thickness of 5.56 cases resulting in slightly reduced powder volume. There is no "real" nato spec data besides velocity standards for bullets of a certain weight. How you get there is between you, your gun, and your powder. If you check out certain loading manuals (like Ramshots) you will note load data for .223 and load data for 5.56

#15 Old School

Old School

Posted 02 April 2012 - 04:14 PM

Hmm no. The case dimensions are identical (or within the tolerances for such) the big differences are chamber cut in the leade area, and the thickness of 5.56 cases resulting in slightly reduced powder volume. There is no "real" nato spec data besides velocity standards for bullets of a certain weight. How you get there is between you, your gun, and your powder. If you check out certain loading manuals (like Ramshots) you will note load data for .223 and load data for 5.56


Total agreement! Internal dimensions were my reference. BTW I load kind of light anyways. And Vlad I'm sure you know this but for others the difference in throat and lead in a 5.56 chamber is to allow a little free bore and pressure drop of the higher pressure cartridge. That's why 5.56 in a 223 Rem chamber is frowned upon.
Certified GLOCK Armorer

"I only got two things, my word and my balls, and I ain't breakin' either for nobody" - Tony Montana

"Life's journey is not arriving at the gate safely in a well perserved body, but rather to skid-in-sideways, totally worn out, shouting...holy *...what a ride!"

Peace is that brief glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading.

#16 Pizza Bob

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 05:09 PM

Sidenote: It's a little hard to compare pressures generated by the .223 vs 5.56 because SAAMI and the government (milspec for the ammo) take pressure measurements at two different points - so it is not an apples to apples comparison. There is no doubt that 5.56 generates higher pressures, but until the same testing method is used on both we really don't have a quantifiable difference.

Adios,

Pizza Bob
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#17 JackDaWack

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 07:26 PM

Primer pocket sweger?

#18 Old School

Old School

Posted 02 April 2012 - 07:40 PM

Sidenote: It's a little hard to compare pressures generated by the .223 vs 5.56 because SAAMI and the government (milspec for the ammo) take pressure measurements at two different points - so it is not an apples to apples comparison. There is no doubt that 5.56 generates higher pressures, but until the same testing method is used on both we really don't have a quantifiable difference.

Adios,

Pizza Bob


Didn't know that Bob. I know how a SAAMI pressure barrel works how does the NATO round get tested?
Certified GLOCK Armorer

"I only got two things, my word and my balls, and I ain't breakin' either for nobody" - Tony Montana

"Life's journey is not arriving at the gate safely in a well perserved body, but rather to skid-in-sideways, totally worn out, shouting...holy *...what a ride!"

Peace is that brief glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading.

#19 Pizza Bob

Pizza Bob
  • LocationCentral/West NJ - Mercer County
  • Home Range:EFGA or wherever someone will guest me in

Posted 02 April 2012 - 08:09 PM

Didn't know that Bob. I know how a SAAMI pressure barrel works how does the NATO round get tested?


From Wiki...
The 5.56 mm NATO and .223 Remington cartridges and chamberings are similar but not identical. Military 5.56×45mm cases are often made thicker and therefore have less case capacity.[17] However, the NATO specification allows a higher chamber pressure. NATO EPVAT test barrels made for 5.56 mm NATO measure chamber pressure at the case mouth, as opposed to the location used by the United States civil standards organization SAAMI. The piezoelectric sensors or transducers NATO and SAAMI use to conduct the actual pressure measurements also differ. This difference in measurement method accounts for upwards of 20,000 psi (140 MPa) difference in pressure measurements. This means the NATO EPVAT maximum service pressure of 430 MPa (62,000 psi) for 5.56 mm NATO, is reduced by SAAMI to 55,000 psi (380 MPa) for .223 Remington.[18] In contrast to SAAMI, the other main civil standards organization C.I.P. defines the maximum service and proof test pressures of the .223 Remington cartridge equal to the 5.56 mm NATO.
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#20 raz-0

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 09:32 PM

I disagree. I've been reloading 5.56 for almost 40 years for a variety of SA and bolt rifles and have had zero problems using standard dies. There is also some brass out there that will result in a case stuck in the die (yes I know how to lube cases). There may be some. SA rifles that need SB dies but I haven't encountered them in the 5.56, 270, 308, or 30-06 rifles I've used in nearly 40 years.


Well I'll disagree with your disagreeing. See I can either determine a case is out of spec when I'm shooting and it causes a malfunction, or I can case gauge it. I HAVE run into cases that don't gauge nicely without a small base die. They might chamber fine, but I'd rather be able to do qc while throwing away the minimum number of rounds.

#21 GRIZ

GRIZ

Posted 02 April 2012 - 11:04 PM

Well I'll disagree with your disagreeing. See I can either determine a case is out of spec when I'm shooting and it causes a malfunction, or I can case gauge it. I HAVE run into cases that don't gauge nicely without a small base die. They might chamber fine, but I'd rather be able to do qc while throwing away the minimum number of rounds.


Okay, your system works for you but I hardly ever throw away a round I've reloaded. I don't think its just luck what's worked for me for almost 40 years.




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