Yep, this is a rant.......sorta. Only because it seems like we find it being the most common culprit right behind optics failure when trying to diagnose accuracy issues. I don't think a lot of folks realize just how important good brass is in the overall accuracy equation. It's every bit as important as the bullet in the long range game. Maybe more so.
I've seen guys obsess over individual weighed charges, seating depths and case trim lengths measured down to the nearest .001 and swearing off anything less than a bench rest primer, only to find mixed headstamps throughout their ammo box? I've also seen many folks who spend a ton of money on high end custom builds in search of the ultimate level of accuracy. These same folks feed that same rig a steady diet of Rem or Win brass because it was the cheapest available at the time. Some even weight sort them
I'm not saying there's anything wrong with this approach, and if it works for them.....great! But there is a lot of performance being left on the table. Kind of like running a race car on 87 octane. If the goal is sub MOA at 100 yards, pretty much any brass in a decent rifle will accomplish that goal. If you are wanting sub MOA at 500, 700, 1K, that bulk Remchester is probably gonna let you down.
It's not that the brass itself is always "bad", though some of it certainly is. It's that it's inconsistent at best. Which undermines all other attempts at building accurate loads. To be sure, you'll come across a really good lot from time to time, but you can almost bet it won't be the same on the next lot you buy 2 years down the road.
Some folks try to mitigate this issue by buying twice what they need and weight sorting it knowing they will have a high cull rate, but still come out cheaper than buying higher quality brass from the start. Some even sort them into "categories" and adjust charge weight to accommodate them. This strategy can help somewhat, but dodges the real issue...... CASE CAPACITY.
Unfortunately, weight sorting does not really address this issue. It seems like it would, and should to some degree......but it can also lie to you.
I just ran a capacity test on some 300WM cases from Norma and Winchester - 10 of each. The results were eye opening. The Norma had a 5.7 grain spread among the dry cases, which would have looked pretty bad to a guy weight sorting them. Remarkably, they only had a .3 grain difference in water volume The Winchester on the other hand had only a 4.8 grain difference between dry cases, but a 1.7 grain difference in water capacity
If you've made it through my ramblings this far, you either just said no #$&% Sherlock, or picked up on the real issue at hand and how it throws a wrench into the whole works. Since the precision of your carefully weighed powder charge is only as precise as the volume of the vessel that contains it, which brand of brass is likely to produce the most accurate results with ANY powder, bullet, primer combo? Even with the most precise and careful powder measurement you could possibly drop in the case, using the Winchester I measured would have the same effect as dropping random powder charges over an almost 2 grain spread and still expecting consistent results.
Would you see these effects in typical 100 yard testing? Probably not much. 200 yards? Yeah, somethings not right here. 300 yards? WTH, this thing was shooting good last time I had it out! 400 yards? I think somethings wrong with this scope. 500 yards? Did you torque these action screws? 1K yards?HaHa
Seriously though, it is an often overlooked component of the bigger picture when it comes to getting the most out of your rig. It's one issue I see a lot and one I was guilty of for a long time myself. Now I'm to the point I won't even build a rifle that I can't source quality brass for. And for sure, not ALL expensive brass is "quality" brass. Rant officially over
I feel like I might go an another rant about neck tension in the near future.
Alamo Precision Rifles