Steps Apex Brass Performs to Process 223 and 308 Brass
1. Initial Cleaning of the brass
Brass processing starts with a thorough cleaning of the brass. The cleaning process removes most powder deposits, tarnish and stains. Besides cleaning the brass this phase also helps separate dirt, sand, rocks, and organic matter, e.g., leaves, roots, grass clippings, from the brass.
Apex Brass developed a proprietary cleaning process after extensive research and testing. The brass goes through 6 distinct stages before the brass is clean. During these stages, the brass is cleaned and rinsed in exacting fashion. Once the cleaning process is finished, the only reside on the brass is water. While we cannot divulge too much information regarding our process, it does not use ammonia nor does it harm the brass in any way!
The next step is drying the wet brass. On the surface this step might seem simple; however, it is not! The brass must be dried quickly because wet brass starts tarnishing immediately after the cleaning process even though it might not be visible at first. If the brass is subjected to too much heat during the drying phase, it will start annealing and be unsafe to fire. If the brass is left to dry on its own, it will discolor to some degree. Furthermore, if it comes into contact with certain other dissimilar metals while wet, galvanic corrosion will occur. Apex Brass dries the brass quickly, but at the same time prevents the brass from exposure to excessive heat, tarnish and galvanic corrosion.
Ammunition making companies are experts at knowing how to make cartridge brass. They can make very large quantities of brass to a very high tolerance level. Apex Brass recognizes this so we try to mimic the brass making process as much as possible. This type of brass processing is simply unattainable at home. To make good brass or to process brass well, a good machine is essential. Recognizing this fact, Apex Brass uses fully automated computer controlled arsenal machines very similar to a Taper and Plug arsenal punch press.
A Taper and Plus Press is a very rugged friction dial press. Its purpose is to reduce the brass or it takes a cylinder and shapes the internal and external profile into a cartridge case. This process is usually done in four steps:
1. Truing - A punch is driving inside the case and brings it to full roundness with a very slight belling of the mouth.
2. Body Tapering - A die presses down on the case and forms the body taper.
3. Neck Tapering - Very similar to step two. A die presses down on the cases and forms the neck.
4. Neck I.D forming - A punch goes inside the neck of the case and brings the neck to final inside diameter.
While a Taper and Plug Press starts with a brass cylinder and forms the internal and external shape of the brass case, our machine starts off with once-fired military brass cases with a spent primer. Our reforming process consists of the following four major steps (our machines perform minor steps in between):
A. Depriming - The spent boxer primer is ejected. If a berdan primer is encountered the brass is ejected and scrapped.
B. Primer pocket swagging - The military primer crimp is swagged out. A tool steel punch is driven into the primer pocket and the crimp is pressed out. Swagging is much better for brass durability and longevity than reaming. Reaming removes metal around the primer pocket which weakens the primer pocket and the shell casing. Swagging displaces the metal which makes it harder and does not remove any brass!
C. Resizing - The brass is re-sized to original size using purpose built long lasting low friction carbide dies.
D. Trimming - The only time we actually remove any significant amount of metal is during the trimming process. During the firing process, rifle brass stretches lengthwise to seal the chamber. Unfortunately, this process is also inelastic deformation i.e. the brass permanently grows lengthwise. The trimmer trims the neck of the brass to meet exacting SAAMI cartidge length specifications.
During brass processing, we constantly perform Quality Control (QC) checks on the processed brass. Quality control includes the following checks: case size, split necks, overall cartridge length and amount of primer pocket swagging. If any parameters are out of spec, the processed brass lot is either scrapped or reprocessed!
The last brass processing step is tumbling the brass to clean up the brass by polishing and burnishing it. The process is very regimented. An exact amount of brass, media and polish are used for a specified amount of time. We optimized the process for our environment to provide our customers the best brass on the market. Apex Brass has spent much time and effort in refining the tumbling process. We even created our own brass polish because we could not find a polish that would meet muster.
5. Final Inspection
Polishing brass helps clean the brass and makes the next step much easier - final inspection. All the brass that we ship is hand inspected before we package and ship it to our customers. We inspect our brass for dings, cleanliness, scratches and neck uniformity. Any brass that does not meet our stringent QC standards is not shipped out, in many cases it is scrapped! We will not ship any brass out unless we are willing to use it ourselves.
Apex Brass packages brass in two ways. First, we package our processed and once-fired brass in 4 mil polyethylene bags. We count the brass using a scale certified for commerce. The brass is transferred to a bag, and we heat seal the bag. We place our sticker on the bag to identify the brass caliber and quantity. These bags are then ready to be packaged in a box and shipped.
In some cases, we do not use the polyethylene. If a customer orders a large quantity of brass and we can save the customer money by packaging more brass in the box, we will forgo the use of bags. In both cases, the boxes are very well sealed.