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Lapua 223 Rem Brass Weight Variation

I recently weighed 100 pieces of brand new Lapua 223 Remington “Match” brass, and honestly I’m disappointed.  A few people have been telling me how good Lapua brass was, so I was simply expecting more consistency than what I found.  It didn’t stack up well compared to some Norma brass I weighed recently … although the overall quality appears to be good.  In fact, it wasn’t much different than weight distribution of some super-cheap, once-fired Remington 223 brass I bought for 1/5 of the price (the average deviation of the Lapua brass was actually higher).  Here is the resulting data for the Lapua brass, so you can compare for yourself:

  • Average = 96.28 grains
  • Standard Deviation = 0.70 grains
  • Average Deviation = 0.58 grains (average of the absolute deviations of the data points from the mean)
  • Variance = 0.50
  • Extreme Spread = 3.3 grains
  • Extreme Spread as % of total weight = 3.4% (this is not great)

All data was gathered using a RCBS ChargeMaster 1500 Powder Scale, which is accurate to +- 1/10 grain and was calibrated right before use.

For match grade ammo, I only use brass that is within 1% of each other in terms of weight.  That means for this wide, flat distribution I ended up with two groups of brass and each contained a little over 1% weight variation.  If I would have known the majority wasn’t going to group nicely in one big group … I probably would have either bought more from the same lot so I would’ve had bigger groups to work with, or knowing what I know now … I might have just bought Norma brass instead.  I’m still hoping the Lapua brass quality wins me over in the end, but for now here are the groups I’m left with:

  • Group A: 48 pieces of brass weighing 95.1 gr through 96.2 gr
  • Group B: 48 pieces of brass weighing 96.3 gr through 97.3

Case Lengths
On a good note, after running all the brass through a Redding full-length sizing die, I only had to trim 37% of the cases.  The 223 Rem trim to length is 1.750″ (max 1.760″), and 63% of the factory fresh cases were right at 1.751″ … which is right where I like them to be.  The cases I had to trim originally measured 1.753″ to 1.758″.

Neck Wall Thickness
I measured the neck thickness of several cases using a RCBS Vernier Ball Micrometer (accurate to .0001″), and although many seemed to be concentric (averaging around .13″ all the way around the neck) … I did find enough cases that varied from .120″ to .130″ from one side to the other that I decided to go ahead and neck trim.  This wasn’t a huge deal, since I was already used to doing this for the el-cheapo brass I’ve used in the past … I was just hoping I wouldn’t have to do it with “match brass.”  It’s not that I’m lazy, but I believe if you find variation in the case neck wall thickness there is likely similar variation in the shoulder and body thickness as well.  Here is a “Tech Talk” excerpt from Redding’s 2012 Product Catalog on the subject:

Uniformity of case neck wall thickness is an indication of the quality of the cartridge case itself. Any large variation (over .0015”) in neck wall thickness will generally indicate a similar or greater variation in the body and shoulder of the case. This variation cannot be corrected and may lead to concentricity and bullet runout problems.

Most competition shooters that have been forced to turn necks to properly fit “tight neck” chambers will confirm the following: “Turning the necks of poor quality cases will not solve the problems associated with the poor uniformity that remains within the shoulder and body of the case.”

As in all handloading practices – uniformity is the key to accuracy.

Lapua .223 Rem Match Brass Cases, Unprimed, 100 Count
Mfr Part #: 4PH5003
Lot #: P00596501 (Purchased July 2012)

About Cal

Cal Zant is the shooter/author behind PrecisionRifleBlog.com. Cal is a life-long learner, and loves to help others get into this sport he's so passionate about. His engineering background, unique data-driven approach, and ability to present technical and complex information in a unbiased and straight-forward fashion has quickly caught the attention of the industry. For more info on Cal, check out PrecisionRifleBlog.com/About.

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14 comments

  1. I purchased some for the first time today also expecting the .5gn variation people talk of. My box is almost identical to yours 46 between 95.8 and 96.2 and the rest between 94 and 97.2. Also disappointed ! Got about the same range from winchester.

  2. I always run all the brass I get first through a full length die then trim to 1.750 (223 Rem), debur and chamfer, uniform primer pockets (not required for Lapua), turn necks and debur flash holes … then I weight them if I’m interested in checking weight uniformity. I believe the variation in your powder weight (scale accuracy) and concentricity from your dies and technique will matter more in accuracy down range.

    • Yes sir, I couldn’t agree with you more. I follow the same process. I just weighed beforehand to show how the consistency you can expect from the factory. Essentially as soon as I start modifying it, someone could claim I did some wrong and skewed the results … so I always show factory-new weight variation when I publish stuff like this.

      Thanks for the comments!

  3. I found similar results using your technique only I used a VICON scale rated to .02 grains. And I too was a bit disappointed in the consistency of the case weights in factory condition and the thickness of the case necks. (they were not .014 thick as I had been led to believe). The total population of 100 cases were from 94.0 to 96.2 grains, or about 2.3% variance and the case necks averaged .01284 or just under .013.

    • Hey Mike, thanks for sharing the info. I was also a little disappointed with what I found, but I’m not sure if it effects actual performance in the field. I probably can’t hold well enough to “shoot between those numbers”! But I’d obviously like to see a little more consistency when paying for match grade brass.

      Thanks again for the comments!

  4. recently weighed new hornady brass. extreme spread on 100 pieces was 2.6 grains, mode was 94.6 and standard deviation was .5 i wanted to buy some lapua but the price compared to hornady was ridiculous. Federal was also pretty good, I too was not impressed with Lapua’s product vs actual… i think good reloading practices coupled with consistent brass handling and obsession on COAL (for your own rifle’s chamber length) will get better performance than paying for the Lapua.

    • Thanks for reporting your findings, Mike. I recently polled the top 75 shooters in the PRS, and a ton of those guys were using Hornady brass. I think that’s because most are shooting a 6.5 Creedmoor or the 6mm Creedmoor, and Hornady is the only one supplying that factory brass (that I know of).

      I have a friend that has fired at least 5,000 rounds of Hornady Match 140gr A-Max loaded ammo for his 6.5 Creedmoor, and he loves the stuff. He can fire ten 5 shots groups and none of them will be over 0.3 MOA. SD is typically 10-15 fps in a 10 shot string. That is about as good as 90% of the handloads out there, so I don’t think the brass is the limiting factor!

      Thanks again!

  5. Just checked a sample of new 25 .223 Rem Norma cartridges for length and weight. 95.2 -91.4 grs. Length (LOA) was very consistent ~ 1.7550″ ( max 1.7600 min1.7405″ Not impressive!!

  6. I bought the same Lapua match brass about a year ago, and just started prepping it yesterday. Bummer! After lubing and full-length resizing with a Redding die, I was ready to trim. I measured about 10, and they were all over the map. Only 3 were 1.750+. To get 97 identical lengths, I’ll have to trim to 1.740.

    • Yes, sir. It’s disappointing for the price. Seems like Lapua quality control has been a little looser in recent years. They had stellar performance for quite a while, but will eventually erode that if they don’t tighten things back up. After weighing and sorting a lot of brass, I think I actually prefer Norma brass with Lapua still being a close 2nd. The rest of the class is pretty far behind those two, at least in my experience. I will admit I haven’t handled much Nosler brass, and I hear good things about them.

      Thanks for sharing your experience!

      Thanks,
      Cal

  7. I recently purchased a long range rifle chambered in 6BRX. I weighed my first box of Lapua 6BR Norma brass and was really pleased. 86 cases out of the 100 case lot weighed within .5% of each other. And the case necks were very consistent as well. I’m no expert but it would appear that the good folks at Lapua are not really concentrating their QA on .223 Remington cases. These 6BR cases however are outstanding.

    • Great to know. I’ve heard veteran shooters complain about the 338 Lapua brass not being in the same class as the old gold boxes.