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Once Fired Brass: The Beginners' Guide to Reloading

Sunday, June 5, 2022

With increasing ammunition prices, many shooters are reloading their own ammunition. Reloading with once fired brass can have many advantages, not only does it save you a considerable amount of money, but it also allows you to customize your ammunition loads according to your preferences. 

When it comes to reloading, the first thing you need is brass casings. There are many ways to get brass for reloading, you can pick it up from the shooting range, collect the brass you personally fire, or even buy new or once fired brass casings

Reloading once fired brass is a simple enough process, however, it can be a little intimidating for a beginner. Here is everything you need to know about Once-Fired Brass. 

Benefits of “Once Fired” Brass

A simple high-quality brass casing can be reloaded many times in theory, however, multiple loads can lead to work hardening of the case, which means that the brass becomes denser in certain parts of the casing and does not properly expand in the chamber. With once fired brass, you don't have to worry about work hardening and excessive damage to the shell. 

Once fired brass may fit better into the headspace of your rifle, resulting in better reliability. 

When a round is fired, it deforms according to the chamber of the firearm, which makes it a perfect fit. This concept is called fire-forming and is another reason once fired brass may be better than new brass, or casing. 

How To Reload Once Fired Brass:

Reloading once-fired brass is a simple process that can easily be done by any beginner. Though there are several ways to reload any round, here are the main steps:


Sorting

Once fired brass should be sorted according to the weapon it was fired from so that you can use the rounds in the same weapon once the ammunition has been reloaded. You should also thoroughly inspect your brass, to get rid of any casings that are damaged, or unfit for reloading. 


Depriming

The next step is de-priming. Once a round is fired, there is still some spent primer left in the primer pocket which has to be replaced. Therefore, de-priming the brass is essential. Some people do this after cleaning and some do it before, and both have their advantages. 

If you de-prime the casings before cleaning, the primer pocket and flash hole are also cleaned thoroughly. However, if you are using a dry cleaning method such as tumbling, the cleaning media can get stuck in the small primer pockets and may have to be removed.

Though having a clean and polished primer pocket is preferable, it doesn't make too much of a difference with once-fired brass, especially if you are reloading for target shooting where you may need very accurate ammunition. This is why some people may remove the primer after cleaning to make everything simpler. If you are using a wet cleaning method, then de-priming beforehand is the better option. 

Every reloading dye set has a de-priming die as well, which is used to remove the primers. 


Cleaning

Cleaning is an essential part of reloading and pre-used brass. There are many ways of cleaning brass, and all are quite effective. Some can be done with more affordable equipment, while some methods require expensive equipment that can clean more brass at a time. 

Whether you opt for a dry media tumbler, a wet media tumbler or an ultrasonic cleaner, make sure to clean your shells otherwise they aren't going to fire accurately and may even get stuck in your resizing dye, which can be quite a hassle. 


Resizing

Resizing is one of the most important parts of reloading brass. Now, in the case of once fired brass, some people skip this step. However, that is only in the case that they intend to use the reloaded ammunition in the same firearm its casings were previously fired from. 

Because of fire-forming, the brass expands in the chamber to meet the exact dimensions of the weapon it is fired from. This is why when it is used in the same weapon after reloading, it performs even better than new bullets. People who are reloading their ammunition for increased accuracy may net resize once fired brass. However, if you are reloading for a second or third time, it is better to resize. 

If you do resize your casings, you will need a resizing die. These are different for every caliber, and bring the casking back into its original dimensions. However, the resized case might end up slightly longer than a new case, which is why it has to be trimmed as well. You can also adjust the dye to bring it to the required length. If you trim the case, it will have to be deburred as well to remove any rough edges, which will help the bullet seat more easily into the casing. 

If you are reloading a straight wall cartridge, like most pistol rounds, you don't generally need to lubricate the brass, however, in the case of rifle brass, lubrication is important. There are multiple methods for lubrication, from dry media to lube sprays and lubrication pads. It is important to remember that too much lubrication can also be bad. 


Reloading

Now that you have prepped and cleaned your once-fired casing, it is ready to reload. You have to add a new primer to it, measure and put the powder into the shells, and then properly seat the bullet into the casing. You will need separate reloading dies for this process. The reloading process is generally the same for once fired and any other kind of brass. 


Final Thoughts

If once fired brass is reloaded and used with the right firearms, it can be even better than new ammunition in terms of performance. This is why many competitive precision shooters like to reload once fired brass.

Reloading can also be an excellent hobby for shooters who want to save some money and learn a valuable skill. We hope this helps you get a grip on the basics. Feel free to check out our reloading supplies & equipment and once fired brass.

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