Source for quality 221 Fireball cases

Discussion in 'Hand loading your Sako' started by Chris Anderson, Jan 30, 2019.

  1. Chris Anderson

    Chris Anderson Well-Known Member

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    I'm starting to build a light weight walking varmint rifle in 221 Fireball and I'm trying to source a good supply of cases. In looking around I find some real nice Lapua cases ($0.70 and up), some Remington Peters cases ($0.50 but I hear that the RP brass doesn't last very long), some Nosler ($0.72) and some cases that High Plains Brass has processed from fired military brass ($0.40).

    The price on the High Plains looks real good but from everything I read 221 cases that are squeezed down from 223 has something like 10% less case capacity, not what you'd want in a already small case. I looked into getting Lake City 223 cases and doing the processing myself. It would be a lot of work but I think I could end up with some good cases that lasted a long time. But then those brass would still have the diminished case capacity issue.

    Any one know of a good source for quality 221 Fireball brass? Anyone tried squeezing down military 223 and have it work out good? Any other ideas?


    When I start off in a new caliber I like find a brand/kind of brass that works good, buy a bunch of it and then not have to worry about future availability. Besides then I'll be set for the zombie apocalypse. :eek:

    Thanks for your time.

    ChrisA
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2019

  2. icebear

    icebear Well-Known Member

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    If I were in your position I'd just buy a couple of hundred Lapua cases. They are the best, and when you consider the sunk cost of a rifle and optic, the extra cost over Remington brass or recycled .223 is not that big a deal. As for making your own out of .223, ask yourself what value you place on your own time, is making cases your idea of fun, and what would be your alternative use for the time invested? Plus, of course, the reduced case capacity, which might have a significant effect on velocity and on what powders it would be practical to use. I've made cases for obscure calibers that I couldn't buy brass for at any price (.35 Newton, anyone?), but I wouldn't even consider doing all that work for something I could buy with a couple of mouse clicks.

    My favorite source for brass, etc. is Graf & Sons. Their prices are as good as anybody's and they are reliable. I looked up their price on Lapua .221 Fireball; it's $69.29 a hundred which is right on your 0.70 a round.

    Let us know how your project comes out. I've always sort of wanted a rifle in .221 FB and I still have dies and brass left over from a long-ago Remington pistol. On the other hand, I might be open to selling everything I have in that caliber (dies, used brass, unused brass). You can send me a message via "conversations" if interested.
     
  3. Chris Anderson

    Chris Anderson Well-Known Member

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    icebear,

    Thanks for your quick reply.

    I've made cases for a wildcats (or they were at the time) before but none of them required setting the shoulder back 30% of the way down into the case body. Brass there would be to thick for the cartridge neck so there'd be lots of messing around getting the neck to the proper dimensions. But the reduced case capacity is the most concerning to me. 221 Fireball is already pretty small so reducing case capacity on an already small case doesn't sound like a good idea.

    So yes, I'd be interested in your 221 brass ect. Conversation started.

    Thanks
    ChrisA
     
  4. stonecreek

    stonecreek SCC Secretary Forum Owner SCC Board Member

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    Buying Icebear's brass might be an excellent way to address your brass needs.

    But if you choose to buy new brass, all I've ever used in two Fireballs and a .20 Vartarg is regular old RP. I probably shoot these rifles more than any others I own, so my brass supply gets cycled through pretty regularly. I can't recall losing any cases in this caliber due to fatigue -- and I load it pretty hot, too (enough AA1680 to push a 40 grain bullet at 3400 fps).

    I've used some Lapua in other calibers and it is certainly high quality brass, but I've never seen any significant performance or longevity difference in it and RP or WW to justify the difference in price. Lapua does come out of the box pretty well ready to load whereas RP and WW typically require a trip part way through the sizing die to round the necks and a light chamfering. But I do this with Lapua, anyway, since I want to be certain of its dimensional consistency.
     
  5. Chris Anderson

    Chris Anderson Well-Known Member

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    stonecreek,

    That is EXACTLY what I want to hear. I have a couple hundred rounds and icebear has 200 - 300 rounds so ~500 rounds should last me a LONG time ;-)

    Also thanks for the powder suggestion. 3400 fps out of a 221 FB is zipping right along.

    Thanks
    Chris
     
  6. stonecreek

    stonecreek SCC Secretary Forum Owner SCC Board Member

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    I've also used AA2200 very successfully in the Fireball. Either it or AA1680 works about as well. A 40 grain polymer-tipped bullet like the Nosler Ballistic Tip or Hornady V-Max at this speed will separate a prairie dog into various and sundry components. And it will do so at about as great a distance as will any .22 caliber centerfire, regardless of how large the case.
     
  7. Chris Anderson

    Chris Anderson Well-Known Member

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    Thanks stonecreek! I've now got AA2200 on my try this powder list.
    :)
     
  8. stonecreek

    stonecreek SCC Secretary Forum Owner SCC Board Member

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    I've found AA2200 an exceedingly versatile powder which yields consistent performance. Have used it in almost all of the .22 centerfire cartridges from .222 magnum on down, as well as 7.62x39 and a couple of others. I bought an 8-pounder of the original surplus 2200 (made in Czech Republic, I think?), used it up, then bought a jug of the replacement AA2200 (not sure where it is made) and used it up. I was surprised at how nearly identical the two powders were to one another, which is unusual in powders made at different times in entirely different factories.
     
  9. Ackley1952

    Ackley1952 Member

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    Don’t forget lil gun powder.
     
  10. stonecreek

    stonecreek SCC Secretary Forum Owner SCC Board Member

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    I've found LilGun to vary significantly from lot to lot. The first lot I had gave such widely disparate velocities (extreme spreads) that I almost gave up on the powder. I bought a second lot and found that it behaved much better. Anyway, LilGun is faster than optimal for the Fireball, so I limit its use to a Hornet.
     
  11. Ackley1952

    Ackley1952 Member

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    Lower pressure plus higher velocity is a win win
     
  12. stonecreek

    stonecreek SCC Secretary Forum Owner SCC Board Member

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    Well, some of the shots exhibit "higher velocity", but with extreme velocity spreads of up to 200 fps lots of shots are also of mediocre velocity. It is challenging to have consistent accuracy (not to mention trajectory) with that kind of spread between shots. Have you actually chronographed any loads with Lilgun? Such spreads are a common complaint from those who have -- although, as I said, different lots of powder seem to yield different results.

    I also found unexpected pressure excursions (cratered and pierced primers) in a .218 Bee with charges of Lilgun which should have produced fairly nominal pressure. And this was with two different rifles of that caliber.

    On the other hand, one lot of Lilgun which provided unacceptable performance in a Hornet gave excellent consistency, accuracy, and velocity in a heavy handgun load. Go figure.

    As a result of these experiences I'm circumspect and cautious when using Lilgun and don't feel comfortable recommending it to others.
     
  13. Ackley1952

    Ackley1952 Member

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  14. Ackley1952

    Ackley1952 Member

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    Not only have I chronoed I killed thousands of prairie dogs. I get 4387 loads per 8 # jug so I can’t talk bout consistency since I’ve only launched slightly more than 12,000 . Barrel cool brass never fails . Discovering Lil Gun in a 221 was a close 2 nd to smokeless powder . I wish I could develop an opinion. I’ll work on this in future
     
  15. paulsonconstruction

    paulsonconstruction Sako-addicted

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    Lil' Gun seems to have a cult like following. Everything I tried it in was a complete disaster. Yet a friend used it in his Hornet an had astonishing results. I think it's one of those "depends" things. It's inconsistency between rifles, cartridges, & who knows what else has convinced me to stay away from it, as there are plenty of other options that can be counted on with more confidence. I will agree with Stonecreek in that it's not a powder I would recommend to others as a first choice because of the wide variables I've experienced. Ackley1952 was fortunate to discover the right combination of things. But the experience of many others indicates that might not translate to other rifles or calibers with this "quirky" powder. To each his own!!
     
  16. Chris Anderson

    Chris Anderson Well-Known Member

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    Stonecreek,

    I've never heard of a faster than optimal parameter when discussing rifle powder. Could you explain that a little more?
    How does one find out what is optimal for a given caliber / load?
    Does the optimal parameter change with bullet shape or weight?
    What affects the optimal parameter?

    Thanks
     
  17. stonecreek

    stonecreek SCC Secretary Forum Owner SCC Board Member

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    Perhaps you misinterpreted the term "faster than optimal" to apply to velocity; rather, it applies to the burning rate of a powder.

    Yes, the "optimal" powder certainly can change with bullet weight (although presumably not shape.) The heavier the bullet in a given cartridge the slower the powder needs to be. However, an "optimal" powder for a particular cartridge may propel a range of weights efficiently.

    "Faster than optimal" simply means that its burning rate is fast enough that loads with it reach a working maximum pressure before reaching maximum potential velocity. A larger charge of a bit slower powder may generate the same pressure, but its pressure curve works on the bullet longer and therefore propels it at a higher velocity.
     
  18. Ackley1952

    Ackley1952 Member

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    Good explanation, now is optimum defined by projectile speed or group size ?
     
  19. stonecreek

    stonecreek SCC Secretary Forum Owner SCC Board Member

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    I was thinking in terms of pressure/velocity, meaning the "optimal" powder (or powders, since more than one powder may provide similar results) is that which yields the highest velocity at acceptable pressures. However, it is certainly true that the powder which is "optimal" for velocity may not be optimal for accuracy. In most instances, accuracy trumps velocity as the more important trait.
     
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  20. Chris Anderson

    Chris Anderson Well-Known Member

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    Stonecreek,

    Yes, Excellent explanation!

    For me accuracy does trump velocity, so how does a person research / decide on a powder that produces good velocity and great accuracy? I've had experience with the try powders other shooters have had success with until something works in your rifle method but if there is a more nuanced approach I'd love to learn it.

    Thanks
     
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