Reloader’s Corner: How to remove a stuck case

.223 case stuck in a Hornady sizing die

They say there are two kinds of reloaders: those that have gotten a case stuck in a resizing die and those that will. I don’t know about that (Kevin apparently never has) but I do know that I recently got one stuck while reloading .223 rounds.

The trouble started when I thought I would give Hornady’s OneShot case lube a try. I typically use OneShot on pistol cases and it works really well. Yes, I have carbide pistol dies but adding a bit of OneShot makes things run more smoothly. This creates less wear and tear on the press and makes it easier and faster to crank out the rounds. But for rifle I normally use Frankford Arsenal pump spray. Don’t ask me why but for some reason I thought I would switch things around. Bad idea. The OneShot just doesn’t do the job, at least using it the way I do with pistol rounds.

Case being pushed out by the decapping die

I set up the press for .223 and proceeded to begin reloading. On the third or fourth case, the brass went into the die and would not come out. Rats! I took the die out of the press and proceeded to spend about a day (on and off) trying to remove that darned case. (NOTE: I did not know then that Dillon dies are designed to use the decapping pin to remove stuck cases. Just remove the retaining clip and thread the decapping assembly all the way down until it pushes out the stuck case. This probably would have worked just fine, but I digress). I put the die in a vice and tried tapping it out by inserting a punch down through the case neck to the bottom. The problem is the distance is pretty far so the punch really didn’t reach. I eventually found a brass cleaning rod and set to hammering away at it while it was inserted down in the case. This was not a good idea as the brass rod eventually deformed and was tough to pull out. I added penetrating oil and vibration but still no-go.

RCBS Stuck Case Remover Kit

Eventually I emailed Bruce and Kevin, both of whom have done a lot of rifle reloading and both suggested a “stuck case remover”. Sounds right to me but what is it? Bruce suggested I bring the die over to his place and he would demonstrate. I know a good deal when I here one so away I went. The kit he uses is made by RCBS (I love those guys!) and comes with a drill bit, 1/4×20 tap, hex wrench, push bolt and remover body.

The method for removal is simple and perfectly effective. Back out the decapping pin assembly such that it is well above the flash hole but DO NOT remove it from the die. The reason is that removing the decapping assembly can further jam the case in the neck area. Remove the die from your press and mount it in a vice upside down. Bruce used wood blocks and clamped right onto the threaded area rather than try and use the rather small hexagonal surfaces. Drill into the primer pocket with the supplied bit until you go all the way through into the case interior. Be careful to not touch the decapping assembly. Next tap threads into the hole you just made using the 1/4×20 tap. The kit does not include a tap handle but I would strongly recommend you get one. You might get away with using a wrench but it is tough applying even pressure and will often result in a tap broken off inside the hole.

Removed case with tapped threads

Bruce spent some time in a machine shop when he was a younger man and shared a neat trick with me: when tapping the hole you should proceed slowly and every 1/2 turn you should back the die out 1/2 turn then proceed. This allows the cut metal to make its way into the flutes in the tap so as to not clog the apparatus and/or damage the threads. Brilliant.

The final step is to place the remover body over the case head, place the push bolt through the hole and into the new threads. Then simply use the hex wrench to turn the bolt and pull the case out. The entire process took less than 10 minutes. As mentioned, Dillon dies probably preclude the need for this system but it was a good learning experience and hopefully someone with another manufacturer’s die will benefit from my experience.

One Reply to “Reloader’s Corner: How to remove a stuck case”

  1. One big difference in reloading straight-walled pistol cases and bottlenecked rifle cases is the expander ball on the down stroke. On the up-stroke, the expander ball goes right through the neck with little resistance. Then the neck is compressed down. On the down-stroke (case coming down) the expander ball resizes the neck to the proper size. If the expander ball is dry, it makes it hard to remove. I run a brush with a little bit of sizing lube through every 10th case or so to keep the expander wet.

    After 23 years of reloading, I’ve never had a stuck case. (Knocks on wood.)



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