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Discussion Starter #1
I have a couple of die set-up questions for my Springfield .45 using 200 grain SWC bullets. I have a Redding die set with four dies: Sizing, expander, seating and tapered crimp die.

1. Bullet seating

How do you tell how much bullet jump you have with pistol bullets ? The rifle bullets are easy with a Stoney Point tool and a comparator, but this is more difficult than I thought. I loaded some dummy rounds at 1.275" as per the maximum OAL listed in one of my manuals and they fit in the magazine with no problem. They just barely fit, but it doesn't feel like they rub on the front of the mag when I feed them. I assume it's not good to have pistol bullets jammed too far into the rifling, correct ? I'm not sure about how to seat them properly without seating them too long (assuming too long will still fit in a mag) or too short.

2. Crimping:

When I bought my Redding expander die, It didn't come with directions, so I called Redding to ask them how to set it up. The guy I talked to told me to expand the brass just enough to be able to get the bullet started. He said anymore, and you'll be over working the brass. I did that and then made up a couple of dummy rounds. To see what effect the crimp die had, I over-crimped one round and didn't crimp the other. Both fit in the barrel with no problem. I can't detect any sign of a flair on the non-crimped case. It looks as straight as can be. If I measure it with calipers, the middle of the case on the dummy round measures .467", three quarter of the way up where the base of the bullet probably is measures .472", and at the very top of the case at the case mouth measures .471". When I measure the over-crimped case, the first two measurements are identical, but the measurement by the case mouth is .462" showing definite signs of tapering in towards the bullet. In fact, the rim of the case mouth can't be seen because it is pushed into the lead of the bullet. Is crimping really necessary if the case is straight ? How do you know how much to crimp ? Thanks in advance.
 

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Seating the .45ACP semiwadcutter:
Take the barrel out of the gun. Drop a loaded round in the chamber. The casehead should be flush with the barrel hood. If not, adjust seating depth/OAL until it is. You now have zero bullet jump, zero excess headspace (Or nearly, if the hood is fitted at all close to the breechface.) but no bullet jammed forcibly into the rifling. Load a supply that way and shoot for function. You might have to change the seating a bit for good feeding. I load jacketed bullets to book OAL.

Expanding the .45ACP:
Be SURE you expand the case mouth enough to start the bullet. Shaving lead during bullet seating is very bad for accuracy and the ring thrown up will hamper chambering. I usually lose auto pistol brass before I wear it out. Most of those I do wear out either have the heads peened out by the ejector into a semi-rim shape that won't fit the gauge or even the shellholder or a body split. I do not find case mouth cracks a problem. Flare them.

Crimping the .45ACP:
Different sources recommended taper crimp from .468" to .470" at the case mouth. If you have thin brass or undersize bullets no crimp will make up for a lack of bullet pull. Taper crimp is mostly to smooth feeding and add some bullet pull to prevent the bullet setting back. The slight "wasp waist" you measured is normal.
 

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I disagree with Jim Watson's advice on determining OAL. While he's right that the rim shouldn't stick out past the end of the barrel hood, the problem is that the .45 ACP headspaces on the cartridge mouth. I bought 1,000 new Starline cases that happened to be the maximum allowable length, .898 inches. When I dropped them in a new Kart barrel, the rim was flush with the end of the barrel hood. Always. Didn't matter if I had a bullet in the case or not.

I think the best way to determine the maximum OAL is to deliberately load a case with one of the bullets you intend to use, but load the cartridge to the longest OAL possible. Then, drop that cartridge in your chamber. Now use a caliper and measure the amount of overhang, i.e., the extra length that sticks out past the end of the barrel hood. Subtract the amount of overhang from the length of this cartridge to get the maximum OAL for this chamber. A suggestion: shorten this value by a couple more thousandths of an inch to allow for the crap that builds up in your chamber after you shoot a few rounds.

You're not quite there yet. You should load a magazine full (7 or 8 rounds) with this OAL, and manually cycle them through your gun. Look at the nose of the rounds after they've been fed into and extracted from your gun. If there are any signs of damage to the bullet, you should shorten your OAL a bit and try this test again. Once you get past this step, load a box or so and go check 'em out at the range. If you have any new problems (like doubling, or failures to extract) that you didn't have before, you should shorten the OAL a bit more and check everything out again.

Regards,

- Steve
 

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Steve,
Starline making .45ACP brass uniformly at the maximum case length will be a great aid to uniform loads and best accuracy. Unfortunately, it is apparently an industry first. I have seen very few .45 cases at full length and no uniform batches at full length.

Now all that is required is to arrange for a minimum chamber like your Kart. That is the only time a .45 will headspace on the case mouth. The rest of the time it will just rattle around unless it is headspaced on the bullet shoulder.

I fail to see how your method of setting OAL is different from mine except for the refinement of measuring the difference in cartridge and chamber headspace which will cut down on trial and error in die setting. I'll do it the next time I have a new barrel to set up for. Unless one is blessed with maximum brass and minimum chamber, your method, like mine, will headspace the round on the shoulder of a SWC. Fortunately, this gives good feeding with a well-throated barrel.

I prefer to seat jacketed bullets to the maker's recommendation. I will leave bullet jump tuning of jacketed bullets to rifle calibers and hope for good feeding at standard length in a pistol.

Maybe Mantis will work with it and post his results.
 

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Jim Wilson and SHull: I'll take the position that you are BOTH wrong. The cartridge headspaces on the extractor. When the slide starts forward, it picks up the next cartridge from the magazine, the base slides up the breech face and the rim slides under the extractor, holding the base against the breech face. That's why short cases have primer firing pin imprints the same depth as longer cases. Prove it to yourself; make up a dummy cartridge with a case that's been ground down 1/10". Load to the same OAL. Place in a magazine and chamber the round, then extract by pulling the slide back. If it pops out, then that indicates it was always under the extractor hook.
 

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Jim,

I'm sorry, I still disagree with you. Headspace in a 1911 is designed to be based on case length. It is possible to load a cartridge so long that the bullet rests on the leade when it is chambered; is this what you are suggesting when you say the 1911 headspaces on the nose of the bullet? Try this experiment: take two identically sized cases and two identically sized bullets, and load one case to 1.230" and the other to 1.250". Drop them in the chamber of your barrel. If your statement is true that headspace is determined by the nose of the bullet, then the forward motion of the cartridges is stopped when the nose of their bullets hits the leade. Since one cartridge is .02" longer than the other, doesn't it make sense that the rims would be at different depths relative to the end of the barrel hood?

I quote from Hornady's reloading manual: "Little or no crimp should be used, as the .45 Auto headspaces on the mouth of the case." Lyman's reloading manual says essentially the same thing: "Do not roll crimp as doing so will alter headspacing." Although both statements explicitly mention crimping, they both imply that if you crimp so tight that the mouth of the case becomes flush with the side of the bullet, you'll mess up the headspacing.

Just because you have never seen brass that was consistently .898" long doesn't mean that it can't happen, or that it's a first for the industry. How would you know? I have a penny that has a double strike on one side. Just because you've never seen one doesn't mean they don't exist.

Your method of determining OAL is based on an invalid assumption regarding headspace. The fact that you haven't blown yourself up does not validate your assumption.

- Steve Hull
 

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I researched the headspace issue in the Bullseye mailing list. Here's an email submitted by one of the members, Ed Hall:

"It seems like this comes around every so often.

Let's look at this a little more indepth this time. Headspacing is defined
specifically in reference to how far into the chamber a loaded cartridge
sits when in battery. The technical answer for the .45 is case mouth.
Various people believe extractor and others admit to not caring. In
actuallity, if you can locate the specifications and do the math, you will
find that depending on maximum chamber depth and minimum case length being
within specs, the cartridge can sit somewhere between having the case mouth
touching the end of the chamber, and having the base against the breechface.
In none of this area can a properly built extractor "hook" be hanging onto
the case rim. (The rim is slightly less than .050" while the extractor
notch is ~.100" normally. This leaves >.050" of tolerance. The difference
between the minimum cartridge length and the maximum chamber depth is
considerably less than .050 inch.) However, the tension of the extractor
"notch" against the cartridge rim plays a role in where the round ends up
after inertia from the slide closing (as well as all the other recoil
movements) finishes affecting the cartridge. In effect, the extractor
places lateral pressure against the rim, at first pressing it against the
opposite side of the slide, as the cartridge is pushed into the chamber by
the breech face. In the final shift of the barrel upwards into its lugs in
the slide, the extractor pressure changes to holding the cartridge against
the opposite side of the chamber. Depending upon frictions set up by the
interaction of the extractor pressure and the chamber wall, the mass of the
cartridge may or may not provide enough inertia for it to move away from the
breechface. In a superbly cleaned chamber the round may very well move
forward to the end of the chamber due to inertia. Maybe during the first
shot? After a buildup of debris, it is much more likely that the round will
remain against the breechface.

Enter the next variable - bullets. Jacketed bullets will not play a role,
per se, but lead bullets can. If lead bullets are seated with the shoulder
far enough out of the case, they can engage the leade and keep the case
against the breechface. This is sometimes referred to as, "Headspacing off
the bullet." Jacketed bullets tend to have to be too far out (practically)
for this effect.

Just to get back to the original remarks of this thread for a moment, it is
recommend to never _roll crimp_ the .45 ACP because if the case is sitting
with the mouth against the end of the chamber when fired, the roll crimp
will unroll into the leade and can cause dangerous overpressure. A taper
crimp would need to be far too extreme to similarly make it into the leade.

OK, flame suit ready. Let the fire evolve.

Take Care,
Ed Hall

<<-- End of quoted material -->>
 

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Steve,

I don't propose to defend my handloading procedures point by point, but just so we don't scare Mantis by letting him think that I go around recommending "an invalid assumption regarding headspace. The fact that you haven't blown yourself up does not validate your assumption." and that HE might be the one to get blown up, I will quote a convenient reference: The NRA Handloader's Guide; Handloading the .45ACP by M.D. Waite. He states the conventional wisdom that "it headspaces on the case mouth." but then goes on to tell how to really load ammo.
"Most lead-alloy wadcutter bullets for the .45 ACP cartridge lack the crimping grooves customarily found on revolver bullets. Therefore the case mouth must be crimped into the smooth side of the bullet near the top edge of the body. A little lead should extend above the case mouth. The exposed lead acts as a lubricant against the barrel feed ramp and also engages the rifling when the round is fully chambered. This tends to reduce cartridge end play within the chamber, and also explains why a relatively heavy crimp is possible when handloading lead-alloy wadcutter bullets in this cartridge (see Fig. 11). The amount of bullet shoulder exposed will largely depend on the hardness of alloy used but should not be so great that the slide fails to close completely. Bullet seating depth should be determined experimentally according to the individual gun and bullet design."
Note: Waite says "wadcutter" but Fig 11b illustrates the semiwadcutter necessary for feeding in a 1911.

I take the next to last paragraph of your quote from Ed Hall to validate my assumption as to headspacing of .45ACP.

Further consider your Starline brass at .898"
maximum SAAMI caselength. Just where is it going to headspace in a non-match grade barrel of .920" maximum SAAMI chamber length? And what would you do about the .022" excess headspace (Waite's end play)in that case?
 

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Mantis: Assuming you are using an H&G 68 shaped bullet (bullet length about .633"), which is by far the most common, you can save yourself a lot of trouble by loading it to 1.25" overall length like most of us do. Regardless of which headspace theory you prefer, one and a quarter inches works best in nearly every pistol.

When loaded to 1.26" length, you will get an occasional hangup in some magazines due to the different nose shape.

The often seen 1.275" length is the traditional maximum length for jacketed round nose bullets, but you will find that some of the factories are now loading even those to around 1.26" to 1.265".

If you happen to be using one of the short nosed Lyman shaped lead bullets, you need a shorter overall length. It has been so long since I used them I don't recall the length, but about the same length of shoulder above the case as for the H&G bullet works for the Lyman shape.

The hourglass shape of the round is good. That indicates a tight case beneath the bullet, which prevents bullet setback and potential pressure problems.

A little taper crimp is good, mainly for streamlining the round for reliable feeding. Most of the case mouth should still remain outside the bullet. A heavy crimp is neither useful nor desireable.

The proof of the pudding is reliable feeding and accuracy up to the standard of your pistol.

Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks for your replies everyone.

Here’s what I did:

I loaded some dummy rounds at 1.240”, 1.250”, and 1.260” and dropped them in the barrel. All seem very close to being flush with the barrel hood. The 1.260” round was very slightly above the hood, but it went flush with a light finger tap. I loaded about 50 rounds of 200 g SWC over 4.2 g Bullseye and WLP at 1.240” with a .469 taper crimp and went to the range. All rounds fed and fired flawlessly. Accuracy was fair, but any inaccuracy was probably caused by my inexperience with a pistol. My main goal at the time was to see if I had any feeding problems. The next time I shoot, I’ll compare all 3 seating depths while shooting from a rest. I’ll post my results if anyone is interested.
 
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