Note: The pictures herein have nothing to do with the content of this article other than the inspiration for excellence each of these Bullseye shooters has provided over the years.
After its initial firing (as factory-loaded hardball), 100% of the Aguila brass would not pass through the Martindale gauge. This suggests it has been stretched beyond its ability to recover possibly because of the thinness of the brass or its composition among other reasons.
My normal reload procedure is, after cleaning, to run each piece of brass through the Martindale gauge. Any that fail are discarded. I inserted this step into my procedure shortly after I started reloading because of a number of jams that occurred due to Glock-bulged brass. The Martindale gauge was 100% effective in resolving that problem so I’ve retained the step to guard against future jams.
But for the once-fired Aguila brass that came from my gun — a 1911 not a Glock — I made an exception. I resized that brass before the Martindale gauge assuming that wad loads would prove to be easier on the brass and that the Aguila would, therefore, perform well.
That exception has proved to be the cause of my efforts this week but not for the expected reason. That is, if I had followed my procedure and discarded the bulged Aguila brass, I would have removed it from my supply and thereby avoided this week’s chase with high primers. The Martindale gauge step was added to prevent jams, not high primers but, for possibly coincidental reasons, that step would have been effective against this spate of high primers, nonetheless.
In the testing this week where the ammunition suffered from a very high probability of high primers, it was determined that all such high primers were in Aguila brass. None of the rounds in other head stamps had high primers. Not one.
The testing involved a total of 300 rounds of which 50% were Aguila. And a good proportion of that Aguila had been fired only once — as ball ammo — and had been resized before reloading. The remainder of the Aguila and all of the non-Aguila brass had been fired many times.
It’s worth adding that I had already made those 300 rounds before figuring out that something was wrong. They then became “the test batch” because they were all suspect.
Was it only the newest Aguila that suffered high primers?
If that were the case, then perhaps only the latest batch of Aguila brass had flawed primer pockets. But it is also true that I’ve been getting high primers for almost a year, in slowly increasing frequency, which is just about the same amount of time over which I’ve been slowly adding Aguila brass into my supply.
Regardless, I didn’t pay attention to high-primer versus once-fired status so the question is moot. I don’t have the data to know.
This week’s batch did, it may be worth observing, have an inordinate amount of once-fired Aguila brass. Normally my mix of brass is relatively homogenous but when I went to make up the ammo for this week, I grabbed the nearest containers of clean brass. On my recent trips to the range I’ve been shooting ball, the Aguila ammo, and those were in the containers I used in making the 300 reloads.
Interestingly, it is probably that anomoly of using a non-homogenous mix of brass that enabled the meaningful results from this week’s testing. (Anomolies can be your friend?)
So, in preparation for the final round of testing last night, I divided the 300 rounds into three categories. First, there was the non-Aguila brass, all of which I hand-checked but found no high primers. Second, there was the Aguila brass that did not appear to have high primers, again hand-checked. And third, there was the Aguila brass that had eyeball-spotted or finger-felt high primers. That final batch had subsequently been run through the press a second time — fully loaded — to reseat the primers.
Yes, I was nervous about pressing primers deeper into fully loaded rounds. Of course, I followed all the usual safety precautions of eyes and ears, but I also kept my face and body shielded by the reloader itself. And while it is true that the reloader has (almost!) never set off a primer and I was careful to press the primers with a smooth steady pressure, I was still nervous about doing so.
Fortunately, I’m typing today with both hands and arms intact. Nothing went “Bang!” in the reloader.
By the way, I said “almost” because I did once, and only once, have the entire stack of primers go off during reloading. To this day I don’t know exactly how that happened. But as you might imagine, it was quite startling. The 650’s steel primer tube safely contained the blast but launched the plastic follower into the ceiling sheet rock and left it stuck there. The reloader was, of course, instantly unusable. (Dillon replaced all the damaged parts at no cost — that’s part of their warranty.)
Suffice to say, I was careful in reseating the high primers and although I pressed them very solidly home, it was not without some trepidation.
Afterwards, and with no explosions in the process, all the formerly high-primer Aguila rounds looked normal.
That’s group three in this test, the reseated former high primers in Aguila brass.
With those three groups ready, I drove down to the range to try them out.
The last group (re-seated) and the non-Aguila brass all performed flawlessly. Only the middle group, the Aguila brass that appeared normal, had failures. In that group, the failure rete was 2 out of 80 rounds or about 2.5%, somewhat like the failure rate I had been seeing up until most recently.
I concluded that, for whatever reason, some Aguila brass was prone to high-primers. An unusually high amount of pressure was needed on the press to properly seat them but, once that was done, they would work correctly. Most, but not all of the remaining Aguila brass did not seem to need this extra pressure. Only about 1-2% needed it.
For the non-Aguila brass, this extra pressure was never required.
In case you are wondering why I seem so obsessed with finding the source of this problem, let me just say it’s an occupational hazard. Or, better still, I should say that it’s a common characteristic of many successful software engineers, myself included.
To put it as briefly as I can, in my work I love “having debugged.”
Software, as you probably know, sometimes has “bugs”. Finding them, understanding why they cause the failures they do, and then figuring out how to correct them is my favorite part of the job. And the harder the “bug”, the more gratifying the discovery of its solution.
That carries over into my hobbies.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t help me shoot. On the contrary, that analytical “I can figure it out” attitude is counter-productive. And that’s why I enjoy, why I need Bullseye. And it’s probably why, when I shoot a good target, I discover that my mind has enjoyed a nice vacation.
Don’t think. Just shoot.
Returning from the range, I then ran all of the fired brass through the Martindale gauge.
None of the non-Aguila brass failed.
Five of the 80 middle group (Aguila loaded but primers not re-seated) failed.
But then a whopping 22 of the 50 re-seated (former high primers Aguila) failed this final Martindale gauge. That’s a 44% failure rate.
While it is certainly possible that only the newest batch of Aguila brass was faulty, the fact remains that as long as I’ve been adding Aguila into the mix, I’ve had increasing problems with high primers.
This was the final straw.
“Okay, all you Aguila, out of the pool!”
I’m done with it.
All of the Aguila brass will go into the club’s recycling bin.
Of course, I’ve got to find it first.
I’ve been through the whole supply once this week already, to clean all the primer pockets. That took considerably more time than just looking at the head and tossing them one way or the other.
Still, it’ll take a while to paw through 2400 pieces.
And following from a comment on an earlier item in this thread from Tony Silva which is also in keeping with the practices of other Bullseye shooters, I’m going to start separating my brass by headstamp.
So, this final pass, the “Great Aguila Purge of 2009,” will be used to kill two birds with one stone. I’ll purge the Aguila and, at the same time, separate the rest by head stamp.
Tonight I’ll be sitting on the floor for a couple of hours watching TV and going through the brass, shell by shell. There will be Winchester to the left of me, Aguila to the right of me (in the recycle bin), and Federal, Midway, Starline and TZZ arrayed in front of me.
And I’ll keep my trusty — and chilly — Stella Artois close at hand.
Oh, wait, that’s Japanese.
Anyone know what the Belgians say when hoisting their mugs and tossing brass?