Is neck turning a waste of time and effort?

Of all the subjects written about reloading perhaps none is more controversial than neck turning. It raises many people’s hackles. Does it work? 

The fact is it is essential in some cases to thin the neck to a specific thickness so it can enter the rifle’s chamber. A benchrest rifle may be a typical example; a custom rifle for long-range work may be another. In such cases, there is simply no argument.

Neck turning
Fully turned necks

The discussion heats up if you suggest neck turning in beneficial in factory long-range or varmint rifle. Experienced long-range shooters have often said they’re unable to detect any difference in cartridge performance at any range. 

Others claim that a turned neck in a factory rifle merely increases the gap between the edge of the neck and the rifle’s chamber.

It’s possible that any performance increase is so small that it is not measurable but, in conjunction with other work on the cartridge case, it ends up producing a good group. 

I have turned necks, mainly in .22-250 Remington and .243 Winchester cartridges for use at long range with lighter projectiles, to increase cartridge performance. 

Did it work? I am unable to say but I agree with our benchrest cousins who claim that thin necks are easier to look after than thick ones. 

I still doubt that it is a waste of time with factory rifles and think the benefits are difficult to measure.

I’d suggest the result is like so much in reloading: you have to decide if the process is of benefit to your circumstances and cartridges. 

Partially turned necks, with the highest points taken off

There are plenty of good tools available to carry out the process. Before you start, make sure you have a couple of other indispensable tools. The first is a set of feeler gauges that allows you to set the cutter with precision. Second, you need a ball micrometer to measure neck thickness with precision.

Before you start turning you need to expand or contract the case neck so that it is a good fit on the turning mandrel. If the fit is sloppy the turned neck will not be true.

It is far better to make several small cuts rather than attempt one big one. The cut should just touch the end of the sloping shoulder. 

Neck turning
K&M neck turning tools

Lubrication is important. Don’t skimp on it. 

Use a disposable case to set the cutter into the correct depth. This may take several attempts. Do not hurry the process and check the neck thickness often to ensure the cut remains correct.

It is common in bench rifles for the expansion between the case and the chamber wall not to exceed 0.001 inches (0.025mm). 

For a factory rifle, whether you cut just a portion of the case circumference or the whole way around is up to you — it may pay to experiment.

Be very careful with thin necks, which are very easy to crush. Such necks should, I suggest, be annealed on each occasion they come across the reloading bench.




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Ron James