-Bill Gravatt – May 2016 (updated June 2017)
I had been following the progress of Alex and Matt Findlay with “Annealing Made Perfect” for almost four years as they pursued making the best annealing product for the private reloading market. The short explanation of why we anneal brass is to return the brass to a softer and consistent hardness after the brass has work hardened from repetitive firing and sizing. As the President/Owner of Sinclair International for over 21 years I saw a lot of products come through our doors that annealed brass but these products always seemed like they had very little supportive data and research behind them. Most of them were based on some type of torch system. The father/son team of Alex and Matt out of New Zealand spent the past four years addressing hard questions about annealing.
The Findlay’s worked closely with the Electrical Engineering Department at the local University of Technology and invested a lot of capital into detailed metallurgical research. Their decision to use induction heating was because of its repeatability and the ability to reach exacting and consistent temperatures. Induction annealing is achieved by placing the cartridge in a magnetic field thereby inducing eddy currents within the brass and heating the brass without contacting the brass physically. To read more, I suggest the www.ampannealing.com website. This is a very informative site!
Why should you anneal? If you are just a casual reloader, then annealing isn’t necessary but if you a serious wildcatter or competitive shooter you may want to consider it. More and more competitive shooters anneal their cases (not necessarily for adding life to the cases) to achieve more consistent pressures and velocities.
My first favorable impression was received by just opening the box. Extremely well packed, you could tell these guys take a great deal of pride in their product. The unit comes with a shellholder gripper, a power cord, a thorough, well written, easy to follow instruction manual, and a USB cord for future software updates. Make sure you order the pilots you need for the cartridges you will be annealing. You have to order those separate from the machine. None are included.
This machine is so easy to use that I was up and running within a few minutes. All I had to supply was the correct pilot, the brass cases, the correct press style shellholder and an aluminum pan to drop the hot cases into. I started annealing some unturned 308 Winchester cases (Lapua headstamp) that had 4 firings. First, I threaded the pilot for 308 Win cases (#11) into the machine, placed my Redding 308 Win shellholder into the supplied shellholder gripper and turned the power on. The display fired up right away and soon registered the program level that the machine was set to.
Since the machine uses induction heating, you need to set the heating level for the correct setting for the brass you are using. The alloy being used isn’t as important as the thickness or amount of brass in the neck and shoulder region. For example, Lapua and Norma have more brass in that particular area so the setting would be higher for these brands than Winchester brass. Also, if you have neck turned brass, the setting would be reduced from the standard setting because there would be less mass in the air gap.
The settings are obtained by referring to the “Settings” section on the AMP website and are broken out by cartridge, brand, standard unturned cases, and then neck turned cases with various amounts of wall thickness removed. A great service that AMP provides to the handloader is that you can send sample cases of your brass to them and they will test the hardness for you and send you the exact setting for your specific lot of brass.
A note about the pilots; they are critical to the operation by adjusting how far the neck/shoulder are into the machine. Just a few mm deviation in placing the case in the current can change the hardness, so make sure you have the right pilot.
My setting for Lapua unturned 308 Winchester brass was “92”. The buttons on the front of the machine allow you to adjust the setting quickly. After you set the program number, the program setting is locked in after the first use until you change it again. I placed the first case in the shellholder, lowered the assembly (gripper, shellholder and case) down through the pilot and into position. I then hit the start button which illuminated immediately and then about 6 to 7 seconds later, the light went off signaling that annealing was completed. Now be aware, these cases are extremely hot. I lifted the case out using the gripper and then dropped it into my aluminum pan. I then placed another case into the holder, put it into the machine and then repeated the process.
Once I got the process and rhythm down, I annealed one hundred (100) 308 Win cases in about 24 minutes. I annealed some 6mm BR cases later (Lapua) and annealed 100 cases in about 15 minutes at the “75” setting. I did find myself raising my shop stool a little higher than normal so I was at a more comfortable height in relationship to the top of the machine. The unit was very easy to operate – I had a student that was job shadowing that day anneal a few cases and she had no problem at all following the instructions.
There is an automatic thermal cutoff that prevents the machine from overheating. Depending on the setting, this can occur after 200 or so operations in a row. When this has occurred, simply leave the machine on and the fans will cool it down so you can resume annealing. This isn’t surprising considering the amount of heat being generated. Also, during operation the area behind the pilot will start to get warmer, this is normal.
All in all, I found this machine extremely easy to setup and operate.
For more information about this annealing machine, visit Annealing Made Perfect’s website at www.ampannealing.com.
To order, visit Creedmoor Sports at Annealing Made Perfect.