Off-Season Brass Maintenance
Updated: May 12
Many sports/hobbies have an “in-season” and an “off-season”. Often, your actions and procedures will change depending on which season you are in. Rifle shooting is no different.
My competitive season runs March through September. Hunting season lasts from September to March. I am either competing or hunting all year. How great is that?
For hand-loaders, an important task is to take care of their rifle brass. This needs to be done regardless if you are in-season or off-season. The off-season brass maintenance will involve a few more steps and details. I have developed an off-season routine to help me stay organized while completing all the needed work. Here is an explanation of that process.
I very seldom have time to do all the steps in one day. To be honest, even if I did have time, I would not spend a whole day working brass. I keep a checklist with the brass to remind myself where I am in the process.
1. Deprime/Clean Primer Pockets
I deprime the brass so that I can clean the primer pockets. There are a lot of ways you can knock the spent primer out of the case. During season, the depriming pin on the resizing die will accomplish that task. After the last firing of the year, I like to use a depriming die from Redding. This allows me to decap without resizing the case.
Make sure you use the correct diameter of decapping pin. Small diameter flash holes are around .060” while large diameter flash holes are roughly .080”. The decapping pins should be slightly smaller.
When I am in my reloading room, I clean the primer pockets with a primer pocket cleaning brush on the RCBS Trim Mate Case Prep Center. At a tournament, I manually use the same type of brush on a Redding handle.
2. Clean Brass
Anytime I fire a round, I like to clean the necks with a product called Never Dull. I want clean case necks so the “grime” does not get inside of my resizing die.
In the off-season, I like to clean the whole case inside and out. To do that, I use Hornady’s ultrasonic cleaner.
To dry the cases, I made this case drying stand.
3. Color Code
I believe it is important to keep your brass separated based on which rifle they were shot from. This is not an issue if each rifle has a different chambering. It can be a bit more tricky when you shoot the same chambering in different rifles. In those situations, I use a sharpie and color the top part of the extractor groove. I prefer to color the groove instead of the case head because the color will stay on the case longer and it does not get on my bolt face.
I have three competition rifles with four active barrels; all chambered in 30BR. Each barrel is marked with color that corresponds to the color on the case; blue, red, green, and black.
Annealing can be a whole Blog by itself. On the simplistic side of explanations; constant movement of the brass, through resizing and firing, work hardens the brass. Work hardened brass does not move the same way "new" brass does. Annealing softens the brass, allowing the original movement. This is important for accuracy and precision because it ensures consistent neck tension and case resizing.
All competition brass gets annealed every off-season and when the piece of brass has between three and five firings during season. Hunting brass is annealed after five firings and is done in the off-season. I use a Ken Light Annealing Machine.
L.E. Wilson Case Trimmer is the tool of choice for all of my trimming needs. I follow my
2-10-20 guideline. On competition brass, I follow this guideline regardless if I am in or out of season. For hunting brass, trimming only happens in the off-season.
2 = I will trim If the overall length of the brass varies .002” or more, between cases.
10 = The #10 has two meanings. One; I will trim if the brass gets within .010” of the maximum case length. Two; .maximum case length minus .010" is the minimum length the case need to be trimmed to.
20 = This is the maximum I will trim the cases to compared to maximum case length. For example; if the maximum case length is 1.520, I will trim all cases between 1.510" and 1.500". The exact length does not matter as long as all lengths are consistent.
Experience Tip: I prefer to be closer to the .020" distance when trimming. When I am at a tournament or hunt away from home, the extra distance gives me reassurance that I will be able to safely chamber the round.
Trimming leaves a 90 degree angle on the case mouth. Chamfering puts an angle to the inside of the case mouth. This angle allows for easier and more consistent bullet seating.
For competition and hunting brass, I use L.E. Wilson’s Case Trimmer Uniform Deburring tool which puts a consistent 45 degree angle on the case mouth.
Deburring removes any burrs on the outside edge of the mouth after chamfering and trimming. For all brass, I use the deburring tool on the RCBS Trim Mate Case Prep Center. I usually follow this up with a hand-held deburring tool from RCBS.
Taking care of your brass should be something you take seriously, especially with today’s ammo shortages. Coming up with a routine and making a checklist will make it easier to keep track of where you are at in your process. Connecting The Dots was designed to help you develop your own procedures and techniques. I hope you can use or adapt this process to fit your needs. Until next time, enjoy the experience.