Top Brass Problem AND Solution


Jun 15, 2019
So - A while back I bought two bags of TopBrass once fired range brass, that had supposedly been sized and trimmed to length. The case mouths showed obvious signs of being cut back, so I sized a few (I trust, but I verify) and loaded up. When I went to chamber them, however, I found it very difficult to lower the bolt. When I inspected the brass post-firing, I found that an arc of brass had been skived off the base.

I consulted with a coworker and he independently came to the same conclusion I did: There was some issue with head spacing. My coworker suggested I take a shell holder and grind a few thousandths of an inch off the face, then resize again. So, a few days ago I got to work with the bench grinder and did as he proposed (more on that at the end).

I sized 5 pieces of random brass from one of the bags and - surprise! - the empties chambered with only a tiny bit of scuffing and no real effort. I'll clean up my holder and size one more time, just to take care of what little issue I saw.

So, something to consider if you run into this sort of problem.

Okay, as noted above, I used a bench grinder to take material off the face of the shell holder. What I found was that the grind and finish were very uneven, with .0015 taken off in some places and as much as .003 taken off in others. I tried cleaning it up manually, and that worked, to some degree, but if you have access to a lathe, mill, or even a drill press, I would go that route (for the drill I would cuck in a grinding wheel and then just kiss the surface. Touch, measure, repeat; slow, but most drill press quills won't have the granularity to measure accurately).
Thank you for sharing.

Just checking I’m following you...

The shell holder and the die touched and the press cammed-over, and the resulting piece of brass didn’t chamber properly due to the shoulder not being bumped back enough.

Since you couldn’t snug the die down more, you shaved the shell holder to give cartridge the ability to be pushed deeper in the die.

Did I follow correctly?

I have some Redding shell holders that are made for small shoulder bumps....would those have worked?
Redding competition shell holders.

I don’t use much range brass. Just when someone wants ammo, but don’t return used brass... I give them range brass of have them buy new brass...

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Barring any confusion over a text-only description of what we're discussing, yes, I think we're both on the same page. Unfortunately, I am not familiar with Redding shell holders, so I cannot say; sorry.

If I'm at the range, and I am fairly certain that a person is using factory new ammo, I will ask if they're willing to let me take some. I picked up quite a bit of 45-70 brass one day because of just that; a gentleman was sighting in a newly purchased 1895G and was literally throwing his brass in the garbage. I got, if I recall, about 60 pieces off him.
60 pieces of 45/70. That’s a heck of a sight in break or in process. I think I noticed Barnes is using star line brass for 45/70. I have to say, I was happy to get those. My 1895 is well behaved. Put a new scope on, bore sighted by removing the lever and bolt. Was dead on at 25 and 100.

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Hears the description. ... older-sets

The same set that works for 308, would work for 243 and 7mm-08.

I have the set for WinMag family, but considering some others.

For the WM, I removed the recapping rod, and I only shoulder bump, then neck size (lee collet neck sizer). Two steps, but I want my necks consistently sized.

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"When I inspected the brass post-firing, I found that an arc of brass had been skived off the base."
This doesn't sound like a shoulder bump issue to me. I'm thinking cartridges base or web area not being properly sized, hence grinding the shell holder allows slightly better sizing in this area. Am I missing something guys?

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You didn’t mention the cartridge.

Are you running these through an AR platform? Some AR chambers require a “small base sizing die”.

I’ve seen them in 223 and 308.

In my experience, which I’m not claiming to be vast or all knowing, I’ve never seen a brass/chamber
Problem fixed by reworking the shell holder. It could be it’s ok, but if that’s the right answer. If you are using a service rifle, consider the small base dies

Here’s a link to one example.

RCBS 11103 Series A Small Base Die Set, 223 Remington ... YT0YCNTDQ7

The spec is a bit smaller that a normal 223.

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Howdy - so, to be clear, I felt great resistance when attempting to close the bolt. My assumption is that the shoulder was too far forward hence when the bolt was closed, it formed something of an interference fit. The visual sign being the removed brass on the cartridge base after ejecting. I also noticed the same when using an unloaded case and placing it manually into the chamber.

Since the datum that the sizing die uses is the face of the shell holder, by removing some material from off the face, the brass will move farther up inside the die. The effect will be to bump back the shoulder a bit (the actual distance is mathematically predictable at a level above my capability).

All this, of course, according to my somewhat limited understanding.

And, as someone asked, the rifle in question is a Ruger Gunsite Scout, though I have seen the same effect on this brass (not firing, but empty brass) manually inserted into the chamber of a Savage 110 and an old reworked Spanish Mauser. With some cases, I was not even able to get the bolt closed on the Mauser.
I’d call Ruger and the die maker and get their tech support on the line. Have pictures ready to send them.

You should not have to grind dies or shell holders to make a reload.

I doubt Top Brass is the issue. Most likely your chamber or the die.

If you have a bore
Scope, inspect the chamber and throat.

Hornady OAL gauge might be handy to find the lands. A short throated gun can make it a pita as Saami ammo could be jammed against the lands and you’d have a lot of bolt resistance...

When you figure it out.. post.

The grind option ... if you go down that path, consider putting it in a vice so you have a change to keep it flat.

I’d work the phone before the grinder...just the principle all these parts are to a spec and should be interchangeable.

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Well, I tried some of the brass in two other rifles I own and got the same problem. I seriously doubt that all 3 rifles have chamber issues that never appears when shooting commercial ammo.

Bottom line is, I ground down the face of a shell holder, ran 5 pieces through the sizer, and now that brass will run through all 3 rifles.

So, something to think about when you hit a dead-end.