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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I just got back from shooting clays at the club I belong to. I have VERY LITTLE experience handloading shot shells, but have been doing it on and off for twenty years or so with a little Lee 12 gauge loader I got way back... It's very simple to use and does a great job. About a year ago, I went all out and got a MEC with all the bells and whistles and while I was at it, I ordered a bunch of once fired shells... I have always used Federal shells before, but these were Winchester and I was very upset with the way they performed. At least half split on me and need to be discarded. Also, I really need to get used to using this MEC progressive press. For the first time in over thirty years of handloading (mostly centerfire rifle and handgun) I had an uncharged shell. It did blow the wad out the end of the barrel though, but brother was I embarrassed... I also noticed what seemed to be quite a bit of inconsistency in the pressure of my loads from the MEC loader. Now, I am not blaming the MEC, it's me that needs to learn... anyone got any advice for a "fledgling" shot shell reloader? Thanks!
 

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MEC Charge Consistency

One thing I noticed with new MEC machines in recent years is that there is a break in period while the parts mate up. (I guess all the other MEC machines I had before were bought used.) In particular, I've found some friction in the charge bar that goes away after loading 500 rounds are so. You also might try some Motor Mica on the charge bar. Another trick I learned was to bevel the inside mouth of the powder and shot bottles using my metallic reloading inside case mouth bevel tool. I don't know if the beveling means I'm putting less pressure on the rubber gasket, or whether it allows some space for the rubber gasket to be squeezed into when pressure is applied, but the bar moves smoother with less tendancy to hangup.
 

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I can somewhat relate to your experience. I picked up a used Mec Loader in the PS (pre steel) days 20 some years ago and did some dabling with it until steel became required for waterfowl. I hadn't touched it since. As of late I just ugraded my son from a 20 ga to a 12 and figured maybe it would be a good time to drag it out again. Picked up some once fire STS hulls at a gun show this weekend rounded up some wads, primers and powder and off I go. Managed to get the loader adjusted in short order, loaded a few rounds for test firing and off to the farm. Rounds seemed to have decent pattern and fairly consistent so I fired the balance of the ones loaded while adjusting the crimp, went home and proceeded to load. First box went well. Then someting started to drag or bind and everything went to H##L. Finally after ruining several cases(I hate when that happens) found a loose screw and fixed. After more adjustment finally got the thing working again. Loaded about 100 rds with an odd bad crimp so I decided to order a new crimping assembly as the one on the machine is pretty rough inside and the adjustment screw is beat up. As a note: put a little wax on those open crimps to keep the shot in and use for informal shooting. Figured it'll cost me $3.35 per box based on 5 loadings per case (I'm sure I'll get more but it accounts for ruined cases) I found I can speed production if I size all the cases first, then prime all the cases, then continue with the rest of the loading proceedure (MEC 600 Jr.) There is definately a learning curve. I miss being able to load lead for waterfowl. I used to load 2 3/4", 1 5/8 oz #2s and needed nothing more for waterfowl. I can't even find a 3" steel load tha performs even close. Personally I have found rifle/handguners to be a bit more socialble. Doesn't sound like anyone offered you any advice or help.[/u]
 

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IronKnees,

I've been reloading shotshells for over 30 years, so I thought I'd jump in and give an opinion.

With respect to the uncharged shell, I can almost guarantee you short-stroked it. By this I mean you didn't lower the handle all the way when you were loading this round. This will give you NO powder everytime on a MEC progressive press. (and some other brands, too).

You mentioned that at least half split on you. Are you referring to a split at the crimp that is about 1/8" long or was it more serious?

You also mentioned that you noticed what appeared to be inconsistency in the pressure of your loads. As pressure signs are almost nonexistent in shotshell rounds right up to blowing up the guns, what was it that you noticed?

With a little more info I may be able to help you more.

Ka6otm
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks a bunch for your response. If it is handgun or especially centerfire rifle, I would know how to post questions, since that is my area, but shot shells are more foreign to me... Let see, starting with your first question: The splits were just around the crimp just as you described... In this area, I was just "disgusted" that these supposedly "once fired" hulls didn't last a bit longer. Heck, I have some old Federal Field loads that I've had for a quarter century and they are reloading just fine, time after time. Not hot loads, just field loads... Second, the pressure signs I mentioned was that I noticed some rounds were noticeably lighter than others, and others had more of a kick to them... which makes me think that either the powder charges were damming up inside the drop tube, shortchanging one load and slightly over charging the next, or, I was not "stroking" the handle the same each time. (NOTE: Yesterday, I moved my MEC from a desk in my den, which was a little awkward, to my big loading bench in the basement. It is much easier to use there, and I think will solve any inconsistency problems... ) Again, I really appreciate your note... Dave :D
 

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IronKnees,

Yes, the short stroking was causing the over/under charges also...that's one thing I like about the Dillon 900...if you short-stroke it, you are in trouble and it lets you know..that way it's almost impossible to get in the predicament you got in.

About those splits at the case mouth: This really isn't a problem until they get down to the end of the crimp on all or almost all of the petals. Just keep on reloading them and don't worry about it. I shot trap in competition for many years and still do it for the practice and I can detect no difference in patterns between one with the splits and one without. When you get down to where you can't get a crimp that will hold, your pressure will be too far down down because of inconsistent crimps, and discard. How do I know it doesn't make any difference? Because the clays smoke just the same with or without splits.

And, for confirmation of this, you might want to look at the Hodgdon Shotshell Data Manual 1st Edition starting on page 16. Here they took a hull through 15 firings and noted the Muzzle Velocity, pressure and signs of deterioration for each shot. Shot 1 was at 1,143FPS and 11,100 PSI. Shot 15 was at 1,150FPS and 10,900 PSI. And, they experienced the splits at the case mouth just as you did fairly early on.

Take care,
Ka6otm
 
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