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Is it possible to compare weights of cartridges to determine a double charge?

Discussion in 'Ammunition & Reloading' started by zippygaloo, Mar 10, 2012.

  1. zippygaloo

    zippygaloo Oregon Member

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    Assuming the brass, bullet and primer are the same, is it possible to compare the weight of one cartridge against the weight of another cartridge (that you know for sure has an accurate charge in it) to determine if a round has less (squib) or more (double charge) powder in it?
     
  2. AMProducts

    AMProducts Maple Valley, WA Jerk, Ammo Manufacturer Silver Supporter

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    Generally speaking no, unless you are using an excessively large charge in a magnum revolver cartridge, (.357, .44mag, .45LC) chances are that the variation between bullet, case and primer have more variation than could be described by the aggregate weight of the cartridge.

    Yes, I know, very disappointing, but I've had to tear apart thousands of rounds in the past just to be sure. I've considered all kinds of things trying to find a good solution, everything from weight, to sound, to x-rays to try to double-triple check. The simplest way is to do it right the first time.
     
  3. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    The weights, not just headstamp/brand names. AMproducts has hit it right although I have been able to isolate "questionable cartridges which did prove to be over/under charged.

    For this very reason I choose my powders carefully. Given the choice of equally performing powders I choose the one that fills the case more. For the few more cartridges per pound one gets by trying to use the smallest loads the risk of blowing a gun up from a double charge isn't worth it. As for squibs, I look into every case as I seat a bullet. One argument for hand inserting rather than the automatic bullet feeders. That aside, I'd rather hammer a bullet from a bore due to a squib rather than looking all over the floor for pieces of my firearm.

    I do frequently check rifle cartridges using weight comparison when I have a question. The difference with the rifle cartridges is that powder loads for me are in the 40-50 grain range and cases are "weight matched". Any variation from the known weights of a primed case plus bullet and desired charge are pretty easy to see. For mixed cases and small powder charges, you'll only be guessing.
     
  4. Kevatc

    Kevatc Oregon Well-Known Member

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  5. giddyupgo55

    giddyupgo55 Vernonia Active Member

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    I would have to say no. I tried. I had about 800 rounds of 40 S&W (these were given to me) and each one weighted in different. Had to tear them all down. Good thing because some had no powder and some had to much.
     
  6. orygun

    orygun West Linn Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Depends on what you are loading. I reload mostly magnum handgun and rifle. As long as the rest of the components are consistent I could tell if I had a problem with the magnum handgun rounds. Rifle, where you have 60+ grains of powder, it's very easy. With the 45 ACP, it's really tough.
    After I'm done loading a batch I do weigh every round just as a precaution.
     
  7. Kevatc

    Kevatc Oregon Well-Known Member

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    Just for kicks and giggles I went out and grabbed about 6-8 brass of mixed headstamp in 40 and 45. Interesting to note there were variations in weights. I did the same with some bullets in each caliber and noted some variation. Based on this I would have a really hard time using weight as a reliable way to determine if a round had the appropriate amount of powder.
     
  8. orygun

    orygun West Linn Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    I should clarify my earlier post. Correct (exact) amount of powder? No. Powder vs. no powder or a double charge? Yep!

    But when trying to do so with the 45 and 40 like you mentioned? I think there can be more difference in the weight of the cases than what the charge of powder weighs.
     
  9. xtratoy

    xtratoy Vancouver USA Active Member

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    The bigger the case and powder charge the easier to tell. It would be almost impossible with a 25 ACP or a 32 ACP !!!!
     
  10. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    People reload for these calibers? ;);)
     
  11. taroman

    taroman Willamette Valley Active Member

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    Worked for me with 44 Magnum cartridges. Understand how it would be nearly impossible with anything much smaller.
     
  12. mookmanjdj

    mookmanjdj Oregon Coast Member

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    I agree with the "pros" on here. You can't assume anything weight wise unless you check everyone first. These guys know what they're talking about.
     
  13. Gunner3456

    Gunner3456 Salem Well-Known Member

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    +1 for powders which will spill over if you double charge, when possible. It also assures that powder is in contact with the primer in normal shooting (gun) positions. Just my $.02.
     
  14. payohann

    payohann Tacoma, WA New Member

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    With rifle rounds it is pretty easy but hand gun are another story. Like mentioned before the weight difference of mainly the cases makes it difficult to weigh and determine how much powder is inside... so I made a measuring method out of a nail. I use a nail with a head that will just fin into the case, I put a short length of red wire insulation on the nail shaft that I can slide up and down. first I weigh the primed brass and zero the scale, dump in the powder in and weigh it again so I know that this one is right, then set the red piece of insulation at the proper depth and use it to check the rest of the loaded cases. I powder up 50 cases and then check them all before finishing. I worry more about a primer only situation but this method will prevent either situation. So far so good, Peter
     
  15. Skang

    Skang WA Well-Known Member

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    If you are buying reload, I suggest that you should reload yourself or buy factory ammo.

    Personally, not worth the risk.
     
  16. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    This is not a bad "warning" that you have a real light or real heavy load. Powder will settle as it sits or is subject to vibration. Every time you place another loaded case in the block there will be some settling of the powder in the rest. Don't expect it to show if you have exact charges, just major variations.

    This is the same method used on my Dillon press only it has a warning buzzer for over or under charges. Dillon cautions that it's not accurate enough to determine correct charges for the reasons I mentioned.
     
  17. AMProducts

    AMProducts Maple Valley, WA Jerk, Ammo Manufacturer Silver Supporter

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    There are at least a few dozen different powder checker type devices out there, dillon has one, hornady's powder cop, RCBS has one. In terms of the ones you will encounter on an every day basis, dillon probably has the best because it's simple and easy to use, but it's not without it's flaws (as mentioned above).

    The lack of a powder check is a major reason why I do not recommend the dillon 550 as a starting press for new reloaders, the lack of auto-index makes it very easy for an inattentive person to double charge a cartridge, and without that powder check it's nearly certain bad things will happen as a result. When I do an "intro to reloading" class, I only teach people the single stage way, and never had an issue.

    For a while I was actively looking at some of the technologies out there to perform a "final check" for factory ammunition to determine if the powder was within a safe tolerance, looked at nearly everything from the mundane weight checks, to the super scientific x-ray absorption tests, I couldn't find anything that was simple, economical, and safe enough to use even in that setting. Made me decide that simply doubling efforts to make sure the right amount of powder got into the right case was the solution.

    If you look at some of the other powder check systems out there, the ones you find on the commercial loaders (they trigger a switch that shuts down the machine and turns on a warning light) are some of the better designed, these typically have two threaded nuts that allow very precise setting of maximum and minimum height of the powder column, but setting things too closely was a huge problem when running reload brass as the case capacities differed greatly between manufacturers. Our solution: stop running reloads on the high speed machines.
     
  18. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    I just recently added a neat device to my Dillon 650 (yeah, I'm a gadget addict). It's a Press Monitor sold by this company:

    SA Development Press Monitor

    I bought mine during a year end sale for $135 but they currently are offered for about $150. The monitor has some really beneficial features even for an oldtimer to reloading and could be really great for someone just getting started with a progressive. The device has a set of switches, 3 for a Dillon 550, that are easily installed. When set up, which is incredibly easy, it keeps track of whether or not the operator has made FULL strokes up or down. It also prompts on the next step like "raise handle" or "advance shell plate". If you skip a step it beeps and the light that illuminates the case, that's about to have a bullet seated on it, starts to flash.

    In short, it's like having an instructor standing over your shoulder and prompting you on every step, clearly warning you if you missed or skipped a step.

    It also has some advanced benefits. I bought it primarily to use as a "Counter" and "Speedometer". I tend to get carried away and when I get in the groove go a little fast for the powder measure to fully drop it's load. I also like to know how many rounds I've loaded in a session so I know I have enough storage and boxes. Since the unit is a timer and counter it also displays the number or rounds per hour your "rate" is and suggests you slow down if you're exceeding a reasonable speed.

    Another advanced feature is the ability to measure the total amount of powder used in a session. Weigh the powder before filling the reservoir and enter this in the monitor. Enter the amount of each charge. Then, when the session is over, measure the amount of remaining powder. As you are loading the monitor will remind you to add powder to the reservoir. At the end it will tell you how much you've used. Some simple math, number of loads times powder charge should equal the amount you used.

    I would recommend this unit as a good "insurance policy" for anyone who is a beginner due to it's reminders. For the "old fart" that's been using his press forever, it has some great tools. One last feature I'll mention is it's Maintenance Reminder. It keeps track of all rounds loaded since the last time you pulled full maintenance on the press. Taking all the parts that are subject to wear apart and inspecting them, replacing and lubing as necessary.

    Check it out. It's neat, and useful too. The owner of the company is a pleasure to deal with too. A rarity today.