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Thread: loading for accuracy

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    Default loading for accuracy

    I've reloaded for a few years but recently began working towards maximizing accuracy in several rifles. As part of this effort I recently rotated out all of my old and mixed 7mmRem Mag brass and bought brand new Winchester brass for it. I've weighed each casing and sorted them accordingly, and will be shooting through a chronograph.

    In order to get a tight chamber fit in my Ruger M77, I partial resize instead of full-length resizing. But of course partial resizing unfired brass is pointless so...

    My question is this: Should I load up some cheap bullets in the all of the new brass and once-fire it before I begin working up test loads with it? My intuition tells me that since the case volume will be slightly larger and chamber fit will be slightly tighter, that might have an effect on the best bullet/powder/powder volume combination. Is it likely that the best load with fired and partially resized brass will be different than the best load with new brass? Or will the difference be so small that the best load will rise to the top regardless, in which case loading and firing 50 rounds beforehand would be pointless.

    Anybody have any experience to share concerning the difference in loads or accuracy between once-fired brass vs. new brass?

  2. #2

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    Try searching the COW method of fire forming. COW stands for cream of wheat. I've never used it but read a little about it awhile back and if I remember correctly you prime the new brass, add a certain amount of powder, then fill the case with COW then use tightly rolled tissue paper as a bullet. Shoot them and your case is fire formed without wasting a lot of powder or any bullets.
    Hopefully someone will come along to explain the process in detail.
    You see, in this world there's two kinds of people, my friend: Those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig.

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    As far as weather or not fireforming will have a benefit, it depends on weather or not your rifle has a sloppy chamber. I wouldn't waste the powder to send cheap bullets down range. I'd start your load work with the fresh brass, and when you go through the second iteration of the load work see if the same best loads shoot better or not.

    If your rifle in previous load workups has shown the ability to take max book loads here is how I'd approach load work. I'd get a box of 120 and 140 gr balistic tips. Make up some dummies with the bullets just kissing the lands and save them as a reference for setting up your seating die. I'd get a pound of Reloader 22 and a box of fed 210 primers. Set the die for the bullets 0.010" off the lands and load up 3 @ 4 gr less than max, 3 @ 2 less than max and 3 @ max charge weight in both bullet weights.

    Lets say the 2 gr less than max loads shot the best with both bullets. Size the fired cases, load them 3 gr less than max, 2 gr less and 1 gr less and re-shoot. See which load is the best, and then try that load 10, 25 and 50 thousands off the lands.

    I'd venture to say you'll find weather or not your gun shoots within 2-3 range sessions and 40-60 rounds. Oh, and start off by getting your bore squeeky clean before load work.

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    I think your first step was a good one. I do believe that the brass makes all the difference, just about anybody can make a good bullet, and there are many.

    Definately fire once with a moderate load then trim and chamfer and uniform the primer pockets, then weigh and sort cases that are within +/- 2.0 to 2.5 grains. (Large cases can vary more)

    Use powders that will fill the case as much as possible and with the 7mm Rem. that will be the slower burners like 4831(s), RL-22 and Vihta N165, etc. The short cut powders meter through good powder measures better and if you can throw charges to with in .2 grains thats about all that case size can respond to. Ignition variation will be more the cause of velocity variations than the powder charge. Primers will be the biggest culprit and you will need the chronograph to sort loads. Use only one bullet. Probably the Sierra 162 grain HPBT match. Use any primer to start, no matter which, magnum or standard, Federal or CCI or what ever. Pick the load with the most consistant velocity of the various powder charges and powders. Then try that load with every large rifle primer under the sun. Ten shots each through the chronograph, cleaning after each ten. Stick to the program, soon you will see what matters and what doesn't. I would start this project with 500 bullets in a bulk box. Seat all loads .020" off the lands even if it means single feeding, we'll adjust later.

    Now about that sizing. You really don't want to size the body of the case if you don't have to and then only enough to rechamber. If you don't hit maximum with your loads you can load twenty times before sizing the body of the case. The honest to goodness best way to do this is with a neck sizing die and a precision seater such as a Forster, Redding or one of the specialty die makers like Wilson. I would prefer every die set come only with a neck sizer, a body die and a micrometer sliding sleeve (as above) seater. There are other good seaters out there too I haven't tried them all. Your budget will dictate how much you invest but in any case the brass prep is worth it's weight in gold towards the accuracy of any caliber. Neck size then when needed body size and bump the shoulder about .002" to allow the bolt to close with the resistance you desire. (that's the best way I can say that.) This will keep the headspace dimension intact or close enough to not matter much.

    Your intuition is correct. I would fire form with cheap jacketed bullets with a known moderate load. The COW method is B.S. (sorry couldn't resist that one) when firing the correct load for the chamber, such as 7mm Rem mag ammo in a 7mm Rem mag rifle. All the best loads come from once fired (from the same chamber) brass.

    There is no point of weighing cases until you have fire formed, trimmed and chamfered (inside and out) and cut the primer pocket as you are cutting away the brass so weight will change. One other thing here before you weigh and sort and that is to cut the flash hole to uniform size and remove that burr on the inside from punching the hole. This is the very best thing you can do to improve ignition and make it more consistant, especially in the larger magnum cases.

    I once shot a nice six and a half inch group with a 300 Win mag with once fired and prepped brass omitting this step then went back and cut the primer flash hole and cut the group in half and got velocity extreme spreads of less than ten fps with ten shots. Oh yeah, this was at 600 yards, not 100. There are several tools available for this task also.

    Fire, trim, chamfer, uniform primer pockets, uniform flash hole, weigh and sort, prime, fill the case, seat the bullet. The rest is just sights and trigger.



    Quote Originally Posted by AKArcherdaddy View Post
    I've reloaded for a few years but recently began working towards maximizing accuracy in several rifles. As part of this effort I recently rotated out all of my old and mixed 7mmRem Mag brass and bought brand new Winchester brass for it. I've weighed each casing and sorted them accordingly, and will be shooting through a chronograph.

    In order to get a tight chamber fit in my Ruger M77, I partial resize instead of full-length resizing. But of course partial resizing unfired brass is pointless so...

    My question is this: Should I load up some cheap bullets in the all of the new brass and once-fire it before I begin working up test loads with it? My intuition tells me that since the case volume will be slightly larger and chamber fit will be slightly tighter, that might have an effect on the best bullet/powder/powder volume combination. Is it likely that the best load with fired and partially resized brass will be different than the best load with new brass? Or will the difference be so small that the best load will rise to the top regardless, in which case loading and firing 50 rounds beforehand would be pointless.

    Anybody have any experience to share concerning the difference in loads or accuracy between once-fired brass vs. new brass?
    Is there nothing so sacred on this earth that you aren't willing to kill or die for?



  5. #5

    Default Start loading!

    I agree with Paul H start load development with the new brass. Some of the best groups Iíve shot have been while fire forming brass. My gun smith told me the same thing. I just finished getting a 180 grain E-tip and 180 TTSX shooing from under an inch to around three eights inch at one hundred yards. Some of these groups were shop with brand new Norma brass. As long as the bullets are seated straight, the kind and new or used brass makes a minimal difference.

    Phil in Anchorage

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    Quote Originally Posted by powered-parachute View Post
    I agree with Paul H start load development with the new brass. Some of the best groups Iíve shot have been while fire forming brass. My gun smith told me the same thing. I just finished getting a 180 grain E-tip and 180 TTSX shooing from under an inch to around three eights inch at one hundred yards. Some of these groups were shop with brand new Norma brass. As long as the bullets are seated straight, the kind and new or used brass makes a minimal difference.

    Phil in Anchorage
    Though I don't disagree with the start with new brass concept, I 've got to tell ou guys that brass is only new and unfired once. So it makes no sense to even consider that maybe your best groups will be fired with new, unfired brass! Even if the best group your rifle ever shoots is only from new brass, unless you want to toss all new brass after it is fired once. So when trying to hand load brass into good ammo we used it again and again and it is always fired brass so there is no reason to consider anything else. Yes it is good use of resources to start load development with new brass, I didn't mean to wast lead just to make brass but it is a moot point, it is alway used brass. I will also say that shooting one three shot group doesn't prove anything. Just as the mark of a true marsman is his ability to repeat any shoot at the required skill level, the mark of a good handload is repeatabilty as well.

    I once shot the same rifle at the same target one shot, every day (the same time every day) for 15 days and had a 1" group, at a two hundred meters. It wasn't my rifle, it belonged to an uncle, but it was a very dependable shooter. I could hold a rifle still back in those days.

    I will say that brass brand, composition and anneal does matter. Most of my good groups have been shot with Winchester brass and it is very durable. The very best brass available for almost any venture is Lapua but it isn't available in all calibers. Norma is very good in some calibers, not so good in others, but on a par with Winchester in general. Hornady is now makin some good brass for many calibers. Find a good brand, stick with it and take care of it. When loading for accuracy generally something under max will shoot the best but not always. Maximum loads with belted calibers is hard on brass (all calibers) but the belt/webb area causes early retirement for some cases. Generally though if the primer pockets are tight it is still shootable brass.
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    I doubt you will notice any change in load characteristics/performance between new and once fired brass. If you do, it is a very tempermental load an I would scrap it to avoid problems in the field.

  8. #8

    Default New brass

    Hey Murphy, I type slowly so my messages are usually brief and therefore not always complete. I totally agree with you about brass. I have had pretty much the same experiences as you. I will say that the recent loads I was talking about were/are consistent day to day. These groups were shot on several different days and sometimes more than one a day. A couple times recently I shot the same load that had been very consistent in the new brass with little difference in velocity or point of impact. Bottom line, for me at least with this gun and this load, take ten shots to the range, 5 in fired brass and 5 in new brass. Other than the velocities, on paper you would be hard pressed to single out the two sets if all shot in one group. Now if youíre a bench rest guy that may be different. But for hunting the animal will never know. I used to spend time at the range fire forming brass and also painstakingly shoot clean shoot clean sessions on new barrels. Time and experience has taught me that it really doesnít matter if you know what to look for as you go. Bottom line, I think shooting new brass the first time (in most calibers) will benefit load development and beats the hell out of that wasted trip to the range to fire form.

    Respectfully,
    Phil in Anchorage

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    If you were to break down what gives you the most accuracy from ammo. I have to say that the biggest gains come from your loading dies and knowing how to use them for best accuracy. None of the other equipment you can buy or use will give you near the gain in accuracy than the best dies will. The micrometer seating die in the Vickerman style is the best for bullet alignment. This is the most critical die for make or break accuracy.

    Good sizeing die without a sizeing button, the bushing style being the best so you can control neck tension is the perfect way to go being able to control the shoulder bump back is ideal. Knowing how to read the bump back and the ability to get it just where you want it to be, is the most important of the use of this die.

    De-priming outside of the die is very important to getting the most life out of a die.

    The reloading press is the least important item for accuracy you can buy. A cheap old RCBS partner press with a loose good die is a better press than just about any other in proving this fact.

    Brass preparation is wasted on just about all hunting rifles. Weighing and sorting is a proven waste of time. You would be much better spinning your brass and selecting by concentricity than any other time you spend doing anything else. Is it needed for what you are going to use it for? A resounding NO is the answer. I want my brass to all be of the same lot, rather than brass accumulated over time from different sources.

    Buy all your components in bulk. Primers, buy a case at a time. Powder always buy a keg or better yet buy a case of kegs.. Same lots of primers and powder are always the best way to go, lot changes put you back to square one.

    For accuracy loading I always start bullet seating hard into the lands and work back away from the throat. Why? Because most rifles shoot best this way. How to check for the best engagement. A black magic marker becomes a useful item, you mark the bullet and seat the bullet and check for even land engagement on the bullet.
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    I'm either a lazy and cheap loader, or perhaps I place a value on my time. Shooting junk bullets through a rifle IMHO only wastes the $ for those components, gas to get to the range, and the value of your time.

    It's akin to what my friend taught me when he helped finish my first stock. Don't start with a junk piece of wood. It takes just as much time to make a stock from a piece of wood you like as a piece of wood you don't care for, and if you don't use a piece of wood you care for, you won't take care in making the stock, and you will have only wasted your time and learned nothing. The same goes for fireforming brass. Just going bang with junk bullets doesn't tell you anything. You might not get the best results, but at least you'll learn something in the process, and narrow down your choices.

    I see no reason why fireform loads shouldn't be used to narrow down your choice of powder, bullets and charge weight. When you have one or a few promising combos, shoot them again in the fireformed cases and fine tune the powder charges and seating depth.

    Some folks may have all the time in the world to work up loads, and can shoot them a few feet away from their loading bench. Most of us don't have that luxury and load work will be spread over many weeks if not more than a month. If one can get good results with the least amount of time invested, and I've found that to be true for my using my methods, then I say that's a good use of my time and $.

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    Paul,

    I guess I don't know what junk bullets are other than not the most expensive bullet on the shelf. I would just use the base model bullet of the same weight and type. As an example I've spent most of the summer developing load data for two different wildcats that use the 405 Winchester bullet, .411" diameter. The cheapest bullet for this caliber is the 300 grain Hornady flat point. I've used 400 of these just to get to the point in load data where I can know what will be a good load and a maximum load with a 300 grain bullet. Now I'll switch to the 300 grain Hawk and Kodiak, then the 325 Hawk and 330 Kodiak, then the 350 Swift, etc. This way I'll be on solid ground for further development with a lot less money spent on bullets.

    We wouldn't need to do this for an established caliber with plenty of load data but would start with similar constructed bullets of the same weight, then go to the higher priced match bullets to prove long line accuracy.

    I don't think shooting new brass in the same caliber chamber qualifies as fire forming either but I guess that's what it is. I have used junk bullets in fireforming standard brass in an improved chamber, such as pulled bullets from military ammo. And as Tom said, I don't really think any difference will be seen in fired or new unfired with the same load from a Ruger 77 in 7mm Remington mag.

    It may be a waste of time weigh and sort brass as Al says but I'm sure of the benefit of brass prep that I described and that should be done after firing once in the chamber of the gun you will use. The rest is really just good tools and attention to detail and technique.
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    Default thanks!

    Thanks guys!

    My main concern is not shooting the best groups the first time out. Of course I want to be efficient with my limited time and money, but I'm worried that by starting with new brass I'll accidentally overlook what might be the best load for fired brass. Murphy is right, since the rest of my reloading for this rifle will be with fired brass, I'm looking for the best load with for fired brass!

    Working up a load is a process of refinement and elimination. I just don't want to eliminate what could end up being my most promising combination right from the beginning.

    What I really want to know is, in your experience, HOW LIKELY it is that a load that sucks with new brass could be "the ticket" for once-fired brass? One in ten? One in 100? Possible but almost impossible?

    If you think there's more than a slim chance then I'll sacrifice the time, primers, powder, and bullets to fire 50 light loads into the dirt just to once-fire the brass. I just don't want to burn that time and money if it's not likely to make much difference in my final best load.

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    The one item I have to disagree with on this brass prep technique is de-burring the inside of the flash hole. I was a big proponent of it also without doing any testing on the effects. That all came to and end when I read a vary well written article in P.S magazine about the effects on pressure. I could not see any change in my group sizes when I stopped the practice.

    I would caution anyone using bench rest techniques when loading ammo to be vary cautious until you have through understanding for the processes and the why.

    The so called process of uniforming primer pockets needs some understanding. First the reason and second when the process should begin, and when it should stop. Last, how to adjust the tool and the setting.

    The reason for performing this operation, is the idea that you will get more uniform ignition if the primer is flat against the base of the pocket. A brand new case for a proper sized new unfired case, using a tool set to cut the proper depth will not cut into the pocket base.
    After the first firing you have a case that the head of the case has expanded and has set-back. This will be the first time you can make the cut. If you have and adjustable tool now is the time before you make that first cut to set the tool for depth of cut. The way that works for me is to measure a group of primers from the face of the primer to the top of the anvil. Get and average and set the cutter to this depth. When to stop after so many firing? In most cases you are not going to be removing any more pocket metal after the third firing. You will always be cleaning carbon ever after with the cutter, so it does become and important repeated step.

    As to fire forming a case. Well fire forming a case means something different to some of you folks than it does to me. Fire forming to me means I'm doing a major change to the case in a couple or more directions. When I fireform, I'm using the same bullets that are going to be used through out the life of this barrel and is tight into the lands. Why? Because the case will be in line with the bore and will form in the chamber in line with the bore. Any error will be corrected this way.

    Of course these techniques are bench rest techniques and as I have written above you had better know exactly what you are doing.

    Thank goodness no one asked about neck turning. All I want to say is just this. Unless you have a tight neck chamber, stay away from any thoughts of turning necks. Yes it is a great way to do a couple of beneficial things for accuracy. But if you don't have the equipment and a properly chamber rifle set up for tight necks, Stay away from this operation. All you will see is adding more slop to and already sloppy chamber.
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    Quote Originally Posted by AKArcherdaddy View Post
    Thanks guys!

    My main concern is not shooting the best groups the first time out. Of course I want to be efficient with my limited time and money, but I'm worried that by starting with new brass I'll accidentally overlook what might be the best load for fired brass. Murphy is right, since the rest of my reloading for this rifle will be with fired brass, I'm looking for the best load with for fired brass!

    Working up a load is a process of refinement and elimination. I just don't want to eliminate what could end up being my most promising combination right from the beginning.

    What I really want to know is, in your experience, HOW LIKELY it is that a load that sucks with new brass could be "the ticket" for once-fired brass? One in ten? One in 100? Possible but almost impossible?

    If you think there's more than a slim chance then I'll sacrifice the time, primers, powder, and bullets to fire 50 light loads into the dirt just to once-fire the brass. I just don't want to burn that time and money if it's not likely to make much difference in my final best load.
    It is not the components that cost, that's not the problem. It the life of the barrel your loosing.

    The chances of you getting better groups,. Why of course you will have better groups. That the purpose of doing all of this. If it wasn't then we would all be nuts to spend all this time and money for equipment to make better ammo. When just about every shooter in this country gets along with a box or two of factory ammo once every year?
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    I would be amazed if you came up with a load in your virgin brass that was a barn burner and it didn't shoot at least well in the once or more fired brass. As Al said, you really aren't fire forming in the sense of blowing out the case, you're just sharpening up the shoulder and making a slight increase in case capacity.

    Think of it in terms on an engine. If you take off the intake manifold and heads, and just polish up the tracks to remove the casting pimples et al but don't change the port sizes or lengths you won't make an engine that ran smoothly run rough. On the dyno the cleaned up parts will likely show a slight increase in hp, but it might not even be measurable.

    Good bullets, same lot of brass, good powder, kiss the lands and start with a clean bore and you should easily find a good load. Just don't make it any more complicated than that. I put as little effort as possible into load work, and have found by concentrating on what really matters I get good results quickly. I don't weigh individual charges either, I use a scale to set my powder thrower to the max load, then load up 3 or 5 at that level then work back down in whatever increment is suitable for the case.

    Sometimes I nail it right off the bat, sometimes it takes 2-3 sessions. If the gun needs 4-5 sessions and still isn't shooting up to what I expect, it either goes down the road or gets a new barrel. It's easy for a few boxes of bullets and gas to the range and back to add up to $150-200. At that point a quality barrel fit by someone who knows what he's doing is the absolute cheapest and easiest way to simplify loadwork. As a good gun will shoot everything well, and some combos exceptionally.

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    Default roger that

    Thanks everybody! What a great resource this is. In half a day I got an answer to my question, and in the process learned a lot more that I can put to good use in the future. It's true that I'm not a bench rest shooter, but I'm also not one of those for whom "kill zone" sized groups at 100 yards are adequate. I compete a lot in archery, and I definitely put a lot of what I learned from my competition shooting into my hunting gear. I'll never scoff at anyone who goes to extremes for extreme accuracy. I may choose not to go there myself, but I do intend to travel partway down that path and so I'm always willing to listen and learn, and then decide what's worth doing and what's beyond me.

    Cheers,
    Markus

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    Quote Originally Posted by Big Al View Post
    The one item I have to disagree with on this brass prep technique is de-burring the inside of the flash hole. I was a big proponent of it also without doing any testing on the effects. That all came to and end when I read a vary well written article in P.S magazine about the effects on pressure. I could not see any change in my group sizes when I stopped the practice.

    Al,

    I wouldn't disagree with this and especially in large capacity cases, deburring the flash hole does change pressure. It also does improve ignition and will produce a better burn of powder so the load must be decreased from a load worked up without deburring. That probably is the big warning caveat for this procedure. What it does is make a standard primer work where before a mag primer may be needed. It made no difference at for me with a very nice shooting 300 WSM a while back but has always made the 300 Win Mag a better shooter. So.....I'll say it works for some. One of the advantages of Lapua brass is that the flash hole is drilled, not punched and it is round and without burrs. That seems to me to be an advantage when comparing Lapua to other brands. I have been able to get Winchester brass loads to shoot with Lapua in 308 by cleaning up the flash hole.

    Neck tension and uniform ignition are the two factors that seem to affect accuracy the most. What will make that so much better is a chamber that is precisely made and not sloppy. This fireforming is an attempt to make our brass fit a chamber that isn't what it shoud be. A silk purse from a sows ear maybe but I have always though even small steps in the right direction will help. I agree about the neck turning it usually makes the average chamber shoot worse.
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    I do have a habit of buying foreign brass, I'll admit to the charge. However the PS article was not using PPC Lapua brass. The drilled primer flash hole still has a burr, not as bad as a punched hole I'll agree to that.

    That is the worry (or one of them) with uniforming the flash hole is that you will enlarge the flash hole and to the increase in pressure. The other problem is that the deburring may tip the exit and cause a direction change in the primers discharge at the powder collum.

    As I've written before, I suspect you have and off center firing pin strick due to action not in perfect alignment with the bore/chamber. Barrel threads and tenon out of alignment to the center of the bore or the action not being true to the center of the chamber/bore.

    A truly in tuned rifle will get you thinking they have some magic in them, they want to shoot tight groups no matter what you feed them. They also will cause no end of late night, loss of sleep when they stop shooting like that. Besides you have began to think of yourself that you are the guy that has done the impossible, and you can do no wrong. This feeling comes on you just before you feel the teeth close upon the family jewels.

    Ask me how I know this?

    You could also liken the feeling to squatting on a bear trap.
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    Yeah! Wait til you hit the end of the chain!

    Yep, agreed but you could also trim the case too short or you could cut the primer pocket too deep. You could use the wrong powder/primer or powder charge and you could trip over the bathroom rug and fall on the cat. You could also Wreck the car on the way to the range, but....with the right tools, used correctly with skill, dedication and knowledge of the task, you could actually get good results without hurting yourself or others. Sorry about the trap...maybe we need a mandatory lock on bear traps.
    Is there nothing so sacred on this earth that you aren't willing to kill or die for?



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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul H View Post
    I would be amazed if you came up with a load in your virgin brass that was a barn burner and it didn't shoot at least well in the once or more fired brass. As Al said, you really aren't fire forming in the sense of blowing out the case, you're just sharpening up the shoulder and making a slight increase in case capacity.
    Thanks Paul. This is what I needed to know. I was thinking that if using different brands of brass can make a significant difference (enough to require caution), then maybe the difference between virgin vs. unfired brass might be significant too. Sometimes small changes can make a big difference, and knowing what matters and what doesn't takes more than a little experience. The best I can say for myself is I know enough to know when I don't know enough.

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