Home / Podcast / JUNK SCIENCE: Should I Sort Pistol Brass by Headstamp Before Reloading?

JUNK SCIENCE: Should I Sort Pistol Brass by Headstamp Before Reloading?

Okay, this podcast topic has spawned from an episode from Q&A podcast 248, where Jeff in Holly Springs asked about whether or not you should sort your pistol brass by headstamp. I said at the time that I couldn’t be bothered to do it.

Since that episode aired, I’ve had a lot of friends that I respect as shooters mention to me that they do sort by headstamp for various reasons (more consistent overall length being the most mentioned).

Here’s what I did:

  • Sorted a bunch of brass. I took out the Federal, and Winchester stamped brass, and then left everything else, leaving me with 3 buckets of brass.
  • I loaded a bunch of each.
  • Checked the overall length of 10 random pieces from each bucket.
  • Then I shot groups with each of the 3 headstamps, and chronographed each shot.
  • I also compared the chronograph results with my new concealed carry ammo (Federal HST 147gr 9mm) to see what the difference would be between my reloads and premium self defense ammo.

Overall Length Standard Deviation:

Federal Headstamp: 0.00281

Winchester Headstamp: 0.00429

Mixed Headstamp: 0.00705

The mixed headstamp brass did have a little more variation in the overall length, but it’s only 5 thousandths of an inch more than the Federal.

Chronograph Results:

All of this ammo was loaded at the same time on my Dillon 550, using Bullseye powder (which I’ve found to meter extremely well) with 125gr Blue Bullets.

Federal Headstamp: 10 shot average 1082.80fps, 10.14 Standard Deviation, 34fps Spread

Winchester Headstamp: 10 shot average: 1081.30fps, 10.11 Standard Deviation, 35fps Spread

Mixed Headstamp: 10 shot average: 1083.40fps, 10.62 Standard Deviation, 33fps Spread

The mixed headstamp brass had a slightly (ever so slightly) higher standard deviation than the sorted brass, but it actually had a 1fps smaller spread.

To contrast this, my Federal HST self defense ammo (a “premium” ammo), had a standard deviation of 11.93, and a 48fps spread.


Here’s where things get a little FUBAR’d. I left my pistol rest at home, so I made a rest at the range. It worked okay, I guess, but my groups weren’t as tight as they usually are shooting off my actual pistol rest. I think the important thing to note is that the conditions were consistent between each bunch of ammo I shot here.

Anyways, here’s the terrible group shooting (You’ll notice all the groups are at least Minute-of-Stapler at 20y):


I won’t be sorting my brass anymore. Even just sorting the few hundred pieces I did sort was a way bigger pain in the butt than I expected, and the results don’t show it being really worth it.

I think unless you get a lot of garbage brass (berdan primed, and a few other headstamps that aren’t great), or you’re loading 9mm major for Open Division, or if you’re having overall length issues with your gun, you probably don’t need to spend the time sorting by headstamp.

I will say this though: when loading the Federal headstamp brass on my press, everything went buttery smooth. It was the smoothest reloading I’ve ever done. Noticeably smoother than anything else I’ve loaded.

Gear That Doesn’t Suck

I love my Caldwell Ballistic Chronograph. I used to for doing the testing for this episode, and the app that goes along with the chronograph was fantastic. My only complaint with the app was that the temperature thing didn’t seem to be working while at the range, but that may be a permissions thing in my phone, because I know it worked with my last phone.

Anyways, if you need a chronograph, I think this thing is pretty great.


Plug Of The Week: Power Factor Show

Larry over at the Power Factor Show did an episode inspired by episode 223 of the Triangle Tactical Q&A show. He’s a lot smarter than me, and did a bunch of math and stuff to tell you exactly what the effect of canting your gun actually is.


Don’t forget to send in your voicemails for Episode 200 of the podcast. Answer the question “What has competitive shooting done for you?”


About Lucas

Editor/Head Honcho at Triangle Tactical. Lucas is a life long shooter and outdoorsman, avid concealed carrier and competitive shooter, and a lover of pork fat.

One comment

  1. For most people, sorting brass isn’t worth it. Where it becomes worth it is those 0.1% of competitors who like to play the power factor game.. You know, those sort of people who like to go to a major match and have their ammo make power factor by just squeaking by.. for Minor making 125.02 or 165.05. Most of us are good with a larger average of ammo meeting requirements but some people and you likely know who they are, want that extra edge and generally play the game of averages and try to gain every edge they have.. especially in national or international competition where 1st & 2nd place might be contested by as little as .05 points.. I’ve seen it happen

    1st Place Jerry Miculek, 2nd place and third place were separated by .05 seconds.. Neil Hogue beat Todd Crow at the IRC by .05 seconds over the course of 12 stages.

    It doesn’t matter much to me either but to them..

    The reason I sort my brass is that with the bullet combination I use, Federal, Speer, and Blazer shave the bullet where Winchester and Remington don’t.

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