5.56 reloading question

Discussion in 'Ammunition & Reloading' started by rockhouse, Oct 4, 2011.

  1. rockhouse

    rockhouse New Member

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    I'm currently doing some research and ordering a book or two to take a crack at reloading. In this research I have not found a single manufacturer of 5.56 NATO dies. I realize that there are slight dimensional variations between 5.56 and .223. So my question is can you reload 5.56 with .223 dies? If so what are the precautions? Does it lessen the life of the brass with changing dimensions with the .223 resizing die due stress and fatigue on the 5.56 dimensions?

    Or would it simply just be more beneficial to start buying .223 instead of 5.56 and reloading the .223? With a 5.56 chamber do you lose any accuracy when firing .223 due to dimension variations?

    I appreciate all feedback and I'm sure I will look to you all more as I get into reloading. Thanks!
     
  2. Snakedriver

    Snakedriver New Member

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    The majority of my .223 brass started out as 5.56mm NATO rounds. While there are some very minor dimensional differences between 5.56 and the commercial .223 Remington, the real difference between the two rounds is in the chamber pressure, 5.56 being the higher of the two. Reloading formerly 5.56 mm rounds using .223 Rem. dies is no problem and is frequently done among reloaders.

    As I understand it, 5.56 chambers are slightly larger than .223's allowing for the various differences in manufacturers of the 5.56 NATO ammunition around the world. Firing .223 Rem. in a 5.56 chamber causes no problems because it is designed for higher pressure than .223 offers. Dimensionally also not problem there. Conversely, firing a 5.56 round through a .223 Rem. chamber is not advised due to the higher design pressure for the military round. Some guns, the Ruger Mini-14 (except the Target Model) for instance are chambered for either round. There are others, but I'm not aware of which ones can also handle both rounds.

    As far as using .223 dies goes for reloading, the dimensions of the reloaded rounds will work in either caliber of chamber, the pressure you load the round up to is a matter of choice depending on what weapon you are loading for.

    ETA: The dimensional issues of wear & tear on brass life and loss of accuracy between the two calibers of brass that you mention are non-issues from my 30 years experience of reloading and I'll be very surprised if anyone says they are.
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2011

  3. rockhouse

    rockhouse New Member

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    Thanks for the feedback.
     
  4. oldpapps

    oldpapps New Member

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    Snakedriver is correct.

    The physical differences between a .223 and a 5.56 is not noticeable, brass wise. The 5.56 chambering has a longer throat, the distance down the barrel before there is rifling. This allows for heaver/stronger loadings that relate to higher velocities with lower peak pressures.

    You may fire commercial .223 ammunition in a 5.56 chambering with no concern. The reverse is not the same. The concerns are the potential for pressures being greater than prudent. This is not to say that I have not ran many 5.56 loading into the chamber of my .223 bolt action and I do see flattened primers.

    Accuracy differences between the two, I think, are minimal. Unless you are into precision shooting, you won't know the difference. I have found that the 'sweet spot' for each weapon is seldom at or near the hottest loadings.

    As for buying a .223 over a 5.56, well that would be more of a personal option. I would go with the 5.56 simple because you can use both loadings.

    FYI:
    my .223 loading is 50 grain HPs over 25.5 grains of 748 for 2800FPS
    my 5.56 loading is 55 grain HPs over 26.6 grains of 748 for 3013FPS
    These are all loaded in mixed military brass with the same primers and to the same OAL. I always full length size and trim.

    These loadings work well for me in my weapons, always refer to more than one leading/quality loading manual before using anyone's loading data. It is always better to error on the side of safety.

    OSOK
     
  5. Snakedriver

    Snakedriver New Member

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    Yep, I'm a big fan of W748 too. With once fired military brass, standard small rifle primer, and a 55 gr. bullet, my favorite load is 26.5 grains of W748.

    H335 and H4895 have also proved to be good powders for reloading .223 Rem. rounds whenever W748 can't be found.

    I agree that fastest loadings shown on the load charts are not the most accurate.

    Testing in your own particular rifle is necessary to determine what works best. Things like barrel length and twist rate, along with the type of action are some of the factors that determine the most accurate loading for your weapon. :cool:
     
  6. oldpapps

    oldpapps New Member

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    After many tests and adjustment I worked out the 'sweet spot' loading for my Remington 600 re-chambered to .223 rem.
    This is a sample of what I can get at 100 yards.
    Bang 19small.jpg

    My 5.56 loads are not as precise, but I'm pleased with it. The weapon is my build, Mega lower, RR 20 inch upper, Bill Springfield trigger, and a Hawk Endurance 3.5X10 glass.
    Again at 100 yards.
    Image070811small.jpg

    OSOK
     
  7. Snakedriver

    Snakedriver New Member

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    Real nice shooting oldpapps! I'm currently waiting for delivery of my RRA upper for my AR build. I hope it shoots as good as yours.
     
  8. robocop10mm

    robocop10mm Lifetime Supporting Member Lifetime Supporter

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    In my experience the largest factor to consider is case length. 5.56 brass starts life a little longer than .223. Because of the more generous dimensions of many 5.56 chambers and the high pressures, the brass tends to expand more than .223 brass on the first firing. The resizing process will cause the brass to grow in length. It is ESSENTIAL one checks the length EVERY time a case is reloaded (especially the first time) and trim to length.

    An overly long case can and will be disasterous to your rifle. I have seen first hand the results. A nice Colt A-3 turned into a nice Colt lower with a fragmented, formerly nice A-3 upper. Cracking a barrel extension is very hard to do on one of these. An untrimmed case caused a severly cracked extension.
     
  9. Shade

    Shade New Member

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    The SAMMI specifications for .223 Remington outside dimensions and the
    MIL-SPEC outside dimensions for 5.56 NATO are the same; within the same
    manufacturing tolerances. The difference when reloading this round is that
    5.56 NATO specification rounds allow for a thicker case wall so the ammunition can handle more storage abuse than civilian ammuntion. The
    thicker case wall makes for a smaller volume in the case and as a result higher case pressures.

    The same is true for .308 Winchester vs. 7.62 NATO.

    I like 24.5 grains of Accurate 2230 behind a 55 gr FMJ myself. Clean powder
    low residue.
     
  10. rockhouse

    rockhouse New Member

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    For those of you that reload 5.56, I have not found a 5.56 bullet for reloading. So do you reload 5.56 brass with .223 bullet within the .223 charge range or .223 bullet with 5.56 charge?

    These may seem like elementary questions, I'm just a newbee trying to learn.
     
  11. Shade

    Shade New Member

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    .224 bullet

    What powder are you looking to use?
     
  12. rockhouse

    rockhouse New Member

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    Shade,

    I have no idea. Just getting into researching. My plan is to take advice of much more knowledgable and experienced reloaders and experiment with what works best for my rifles. I plan to reload both plinking and match rounds, both for the same rifle until I can build another rifle and have dedicated plinking and match rifles.
     
  13. Snakedriver

    Snakedriver New Member

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    The 5.56mm metric is the same and uses a .224 caliber bullet that you can buy anywhere reloading supplies are sold.

    Winchester W748, Hogdon H335 and H4895 have been excellent powders that I've had very good luck reloading 5.56/.223 with. I've heard people also say that BLC-2 is real good too.

    ETA: You'll be hard pressed to find anyone who has reloading data on 5.56mm NATO. The answer is you need to forget about 5.56 and reload using .223 Remington loading data. It'll be plenty hot enough for you if that's what you want, but that won't always yield the best accuracy.
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2011
  14. robocop10mm

    robocop10mm Lifetime Supporting Member Lifetime Supporter

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    I used to believe this, but was challenged on it.

    I weighed 10 piece samples from a variety of commercial .223 cases and numerous different mil spec 5.56 cases. There is no reason to believe this is true. IIRC, R-P brass was the thinnest (lightest) and Winchester Commercial was the heaviest. WCC, TW, and LC brass were "middle of the road"

    Generally speaking, 7.62 X 51 (NATO) brass is decidedly thicker (heavier) than .308 commercial brass.
     
  15. jpattersonnh

    jpattersonnh Active Member

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    I have found that 5.56 compared w/ .223, the difference really lyes w/ the legnth of the case neck. If you don't own a 5.56, Wylde, or CIP chambered rifle, don't shoot surplus or 5.56 spec ammo. My CZ 527 Varminter has a CIP chamber. I can interchange between 5.56 surplus, commercail cartridges, or reloads and see no major difference. My Bushmaster DCM was a different story.
     
  16. Shade

    Shade New Member

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    At my previous job, I have supplied drawing lubricants to the Ammunition
    plants in Lake City, Anoka and Lonoke. I shared the Lonoke and Lake City
    plants with another gentleman, he was also an avid pistol shooter.

    Both of us had long talks with the engineers at all the plants. Several
    conversations were around the 5.56 NATO vs. .223 Remington. Long story
    short the manufacturing tolerances, especially on case wall are wide enough
    on both sets of specs and overlap 80-90 of their ranges that it is very
    possible that you will find Lake City brass to be lighter that commerical brass.

    You also have to keep in mind that most of the presses in use today at all of
    the above plants are from the early forties. The tooling is obviously not the
    same. But the presses are the same.

    All the brass comes from the same plant Olin Brass.
     
  17. alsaqr

    alsaqr Well-Known Member Supporter

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    It's a myth that US military 5.56mm cases are thicker than .223 commercial cases. i've been weighing the cases for my accuracy loads since about 1968. The thickest US made cases are .223 Federal Gold Match and .223 Federal American Eagle. The thickest cases of all are Lapua. Some Brit military 5.56mm cases are very thick.

    http://ar15barrels.com/data/223weights.xls
     
  18. oldpapps

    oldpapps New Member

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    You are doing the right thing, finding out as much about your endeavor before wasting money and time, getting it right the first time.

    Load them both the exact same when you start. Same brass, powder, primers, bullets, to the same specs. Use the loading data and trim lengths and overall load lengths as listed in your reloading manual.
    As you begin working your loads, experiment with different powders and bullets. Always follow the loading data in that book. NO THERE IS NOT a separate listing for 5.56 round in most loading books.
    As you progress and begin to learn what to look out for in performance and pressure signs, you will better be able to increase your loading pressures, powder charges, for your weapon into the realm of the normal 5.56 loads. But only if your weapon is marked as being a 5.56 chambering.
    Things to remember:
    A) Always full length size new or new to you brass (unless being fired only in one bolt action rifle, always full length size.) Trim to length also. This is a good thing to do each loading.
    B) Always begin with the suggested starting loading. Only move up after you have determined it to be safe.
    C) Sort your brass. Thicker, heaver brass is made by different manufacturers. These differences can and will make pressure differences in your loads.
    D) The change of components will make a difference in pressures.
    E) Consistency is the rule for safety and accuracy.
    F) Unless you have access to a Crono, you will be hard pressed to tell a book spec 223 loading from a 5.56 loading. Unless you have a true need and have learned where the safe limits are, high velocity loads are not worth the time.
    G) Load to find that special loading that meets your needs with your weapon. A combination of function, accuracy, energy and cost is your true goal.

    Loading is fun, produces better ammunition, tailors that ammunition for your weapon and gives you a better understanding of your weapon and its loading capabilities. Loading will not save you money. It becomes addictive and you will only want to shoot more and more.

    All ways error on the side of safety.

    Enjoy,

    OSOK
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2011
  19. Fumbles

    Fumbles New Member

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    LOL!!:D I keep reading that.

    Rockhouse, nice thread man. You beat me to it. I am also just starting out. I have had 99% of the reloading gear for about 13 years and never used it. It was a case of....... "oh you may as well take this stuff also if you want it" ...... when I bought a handgun from someone in the family. It's an older RCBS RockChucker and has been packed away in a crate up at my storage unit.

    No More!:D

    I was going to ask similar questions so I hope you do not mind if, rather than start a new thread, I ask here?

    1.Is it a good idea to only use spent 5.56 brass for either .223 and 5.56 reloads?

    2. If using .223 spent brass is okay to reload with, is Remington UMC brass any good? (for .223 loads of course)

    3. What is the best way to mark your brass so you know how many times it has been reloaded? Considering that when sweeping up brass at the range, there will be some cross contamination with other shooters brass and you may not know who's is who's.

    4. Is there a good article, book, PDF etc out there that concentrates purely on reloading the .223/5.56 cartridge?

    (I know that all the reloading folks have nice fat reloading manuals and I do intend to get one or more.)


    Again, hope you don't mind me asking here Rockhouse?
     
  20. rockhouse

    rockhouse New Member

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    The thread is for reloading, not me. You've asked some questions I haven't thought of. I guess we'll figure this out together.