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Thread: Soft brass versus Hard brass

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    Default Soft brass versus Hard brass

    This is in connection with annealing, but I won't ask again about that because there seems to be some disagreement there. (Some folks reject the more primative methods, and others have practiced them for years.)

    Even after reading about this, I find it confusing.

    When, for example, I encounter a split neck I think of that as brass that's brittle, or too hard, and lacking in elasticity, and too soft being brass that flows too easily.

    This mindset that I have doesn't seem to jive with what I've been reading lately.

    I apologize for being a gun nut and not knowing, for sure, about this.

    I would appreciate some clues that will help me to correctly relate these terms, " Hard or Soft" as they apply to brass.

    Thanks
    Smitty of the North
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    Hard doesn’t always mean brittle, you can have brittle soft brass too. Lets see if I can splain it. It’s one of them very complex subjects that seem like it should be simple and ain’t at all but I’ll over simple it best I can here.

    Think of the molecules in metal like your fingers, when you melt metal to the point it flows the molecules run together like interlacing your fingers. Now you have the strongest bond, the molecules all tangled up and hard to pull apart like your fingers.

    Work hardening is like mashing your laced fingers with a hammer, the molecules get smashed tighter together and become stiffer. Mash your fingers more and they start to rip and brake, fingers from one hand may get more attached to the other hand than the one they started out on. Mash your fingers still more and you start to get hamburger meat, soft, playable and yet brittle. Brittle like lean Boo burger that falls apart when you try to make a patty unless you add some fat to it. The molecules in the mettle are all inter woven but busted up into stubby fingers that have no strength to their connection togather anymore.
     
    Annealing brass gives the unbroken molecular chains room to move around the others without snapping them but DOESN’T repair the broken molecular chains. To repair broken molecular chains it needs enough heat to become fluid so molecules can freely move around and form new longer chains again. So annealing extends rifle brass life like motor oil extends engine life, your engine like your brass will eventually wear out no matter how well oiled because oil like annealing reduces the damage but don’t repair it.
     
    Eventually your brass becomes to weakened at a molecular level to take the stress and it cracks. If you buy some old worn out brass you can make it soft by annealing but its still old wore out brass reedy to split even if it’s soft and flexible.
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    So when necks split the brass is SOFT??

    When it isn't elastic, it's SOFT??

    I always thought that butter was soft and rocks were hard.

    What are people talking about when they say, "Norma brass is soft"??

    Is my privi partizan brass, so hard, I can hardly trim it, soft?

    If so, it makes little sense to me.

    Thanks
    SOTN

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    Not so much related directly to rifle brass, but in general: Soft=ductile, hard=brittle

    So a more ductile material is able to flow when a force is applied without failures (cracks, etc.). The word "toughness" is also a technical term in the science of metallurgy. Which, if I remember right basically means, the ability to undergo significant dimensional changes without failures. So a metal can have "toughness", be sufficiently hard to resist deformation, but when enough force is applied it acts "ductile" and can deform without failure.

    So if you have a ductile material that is "strained" (ie deformed), it becomes "work hardened", which is basically a realignment of the molecules into a stronger matrix. Some materials work harden and some do not. Obviously, brass is one of them that does work harden, hence annealing the necks to relax them so they are more ductile again.

    I have no experience with Privi partizan brass, but maybe it falls under the classification of being "tough". Seemingly hard, but ductile enough not to be brittle. Just a thought, not stating a fact. My experience is more with steels and not so much with brass, so there may be some differences that I'm not familiar with.

    Is it possible that the reason for eventual splits in annealed brass has something to do with the thinning of the necks over time (?) Or maybe the material is not capable of fully annealing the more times it is work hardened and so annealing becomes a case of diminishing returns???



    And thanks to ADF, everytime I resize brass, I'm going to think about my fingers being smashed to a pulp!! LOL...

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    After re-reading ADfields post, I see that I re-stated alot of what he said in a bit different way....so I guess that means I agree with him...

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    When talking about Norma being soft or privi partizan hard your talking about the “alloy” not the heat treating “temper” hardness. Brass isn’t just brass, brass is copper with other stuff mixed in at varying amounts so one alloy can be harder than another at the same temper.
     
    Your butter is soft, it can be made harder by putting it in the frig or softer by worming it up. But also you can melt it and add in salt (“alloy” if you will) that will make it harder at a given temperature, the more salt the harder it gets till it gets crumbly.
     
    Dkwarthog yes thinning is also a big factor to split brass, not just the necks but those pesky head separations so prevalent on belted cases. It will gibe at the weakest spot and thinning is a double whammy for weak spots as the act of thinning means that spot is not only the thinnest but also the most worked or stresses molecule chains.
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    Smitty, it seems your mixing properties, hard/soft and brittle (un-annealed)/flexible (annealed), I don't remember them all, I'm a electrical engineer so I haven't had to deal with textbook properties of metals in something like 10 years... In any case, ADfields simplified example is pretty good, basically annealing relieves stress in the brass, which makes it less likely to break when impacted by the explosion inside it. I would also agree that when discussing variable hardness of brass by manufacturer its likely due to alloy recipe.

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    I certainly appreciate the explanations.

    However, I'm still confused. I still don't know if annealing makes brass softer or harder. Or, if elastic means hard or soft.

    I'm thinking that you cannot describe annealing using those terms.

    SOTN
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    With regard to gunning brass: To me hard means brittle, the brass work "hardens" and that's why we get split necks. Soft means its too elastic...I had some 1X FC brass that wouldn't hold primers in a known load that worked in every other type of brass it was used in.

    I have no idea where I found it, but there is an article somewhere on the web on the differences in factory brass, ie what's it made of. There is a lot of difference. Remington rans ads once upon a time claiming its formula was special. I'm sure everyone else thinks their brass is special.

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    Ballistic Edge Manufacturing web site has a very good article explaining annealing rifle brass. Might help if you haven't read it already. Really helped me. I never annealed brass until I started forming brass for the 300 OSSM.
    Steve

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    Quote Originally Posted by Smitty of the North View Post
    I certainly appreciate the explanations.

    However, I'm still confused. I still don't know if annealing makes brass softer or harder. Or, if elastic means hard or soft.

    I'm thinking that you cannot describe annealing using those terms.

    SOTN
    Well annealing does make it softer, working makes it harder, both have little to do with elasticity.

    Softer = a descriptive term referring to increased malleability, less resistance to form/flow/bend/distort under load.
    Harder = a descriptive term referring to decreased malleability, more resistance to form/flow/bend/distort under load.

    One means more malleability and the other less so it’s the amount of malleability we are thinking about.

    Now elasticity refers to memory, does it return or bounce/spring back to its former shape once force stops acting on it. Potting clay has very little elasticity and finger Jello has a lot of elasticity yet both are similar in malleability.
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    Also neck cracking is a product of not enlogh tensile strength. Tensile strength is the molecular handshake I talked about. Something has got to give when you apply the force, ether the molecular bond holds and the case fire forms or the molecular bond fails and you get a crack.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LeonardC View Post
    With regard to gunning brass: To me hard means brittle, the brass work "hardens" and that's why we get split necks. Soft means its too elastic...I had some 1X FC brass that wouldn't hold primers in a known load that worked in every other type of brass it was used in.

    I have no idea where I found it, but there is an article somewhere on the web on the differences in factory brass, ie what's it made of. There is a lot of difference. Remington rans ads once upon a time claiming its formula was special. I'm sure everyone else thinks their brass is special.
    Yeah I always thought about it like that too.

    I like Remington and Federal brass. Winchester, I can deal with, but I think it's harder to work with when it's new. In a batch of 50 or 100, there's usually 1 or 2 with a flaw.

    All my Federal brass came fm FLs. I've never seen it for sale. I would buy it.

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    Thanks Andy, and all.

    I shall ponder this.

    SOTN
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    Default Aneling metals ,drawing their temper

    When a metal is heated and very quickly cooled it is hardened .When a metal is heated and very slowly cooled it is anealed, softened.Take a file and strike it with a hammer and it will break like glass, Put it in a furnace and bring it to glowing read and then very slowly cool it simply laying asid of the flame a while and then in sand so the air does not cool it .and you can pound on it and bend it to what ever shape you like adding just a little heat as you work .even if you let it cool off completely slowly ,you wil not break it striking it with a hammer. To retemper you bring it back up to glowing read hot tempreture and quench it in cold salt water ,and will have it's hardness returned.Drop it n the floor and it will shatter. When I work copper tubing that has already been used I aneal it with a torch and cool it very slowly .I can rebend the tube but it has already under gone thinning on out side bends from the initial bend so I have to be mindful of that as I work. Brass is an alloy so you have different metals in a blend ,keep that in mind. Some pros only anel the neck standing them on end in a pan neck down so nothing but the neck is being treated .Broought to temp then slowly cooled with the lid on and it will be nice and soft . Resizing the neck is important because it is thinning ,just like bending the copper tubing the prssures of the explosion are doing the same thing.Eventually the metal becomes too thin and wil give out ,that's life . If your getting cracks from newer brass have your chamber checked . It seems a lot of folk like to run hi pressure loads ,this only shortens chamber life. Most of my guns are like new in the chamber because the only time I run a heavy load is hunting . Hope this helps

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    Quote Originally Posted by Arleigh View Post
    When a metal is heated and very quickly cooled it is hardened .When a metal is heated and very slowly cooled it is anealed, softened.
    That is basically true for ferrous metal such as steels (you must heat to “non magnetic” which is bright red not just red) but the opposite is true for non-ferrous metals like brass.
     
    To anneal or soften brass (or copper pipe) heat it to over 700f and quench (rapidly cool) in water. On the color chart 700f is black hot or has no visable color (visable color starts about 900f) but in a very dark room you can see a very slight glow, in a light room it just starts to look a little waxy from the heat waves coming off it. Heat rifle brass to a full red (900f+) and you can get slumping, case mouths melted round, and necks that are too soft to have good tension on the bullet.
     
    Hardening and pulling back temper on steel is relatively simple as you say, however heat treating (hardening) non-ferrous metals is complex and beyond the reach of home tinkering. It takes some pretty complicated equipment to cool it slowly at specific temperatures for specific times while preventing oxidation by emersion in inert gasses like argon, nitrogen, etc.
     
    Anyhoo, quenching ferrous metal hardens and quenching non-ferrous metal anneals.
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    The article I spoke of above is "Cartridge Brass Alloys Revealed by X-Ray Spectrometers" found on bulletin.accurateshooter.com

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