The State of Winchester Brass in 2021

Copyright 2021 – Stephen Redgwell

The Internet is an interesting thing. I have been reading for a while about the poor quality of Winchester brass, but haven’t bought any of their cases in years. The last purchase was some 222 Remington brass about ten years ago. What I read about the present production was not flattering.

Okay, you can’t always trust what you read in the World Wide Web. That includes how badly quality has dropped at the Winchester plant. Frankly, I didn’t believe the stories I read. My opinion changed. I received 200 recently manufactured cases that came in what were described as “those infamous red bags”. I think they were labelled that way to distinguish them from previous runs of better quality brass. The bags I had on the shelf were acceptable, according to the reviews. They were blue. Here are the two, side by side.

New and old

I was curious, and took them to the bench for a look. I took 50 out of the bag and put them into a tray, primers up. The first thing I noticed was the off centre flash holes. That was an obvious lack of QC! For those who do not know, most flash holes are punch formed. It’s amazing that these would make it out the door!

Off centre flash holes

One third of the cases had off centre flash holes. I decided to save as many as I could, so I went into one of my tool boxes and dug out two tools that I have not used in years, Specifically, I found my flash hole uniformer and primer pocket reamer. They do as their names suggest: they create perfectly round flash holes and ream out primer pockets to the same depth.

Years ago, when I shot competition, we used flash hole uniformers and primer pocket reamers to ensure the flash holes were round and free from brass punch ups. Punch ups were flakes of brass left inside cases after flash hole forming. With better brass, my tools found their way to the back of a drawer.

Flash hole uniformer

After I finished with the tools, I inspected the cases again, rejecting 17 of the 50. The cases showed grossly off centre flash holes. I have 150 more to look at. I hope that of the 200, half can be saved.

I have only examined two bags, but my experience, as well as what I have read, tells me Winchester had better get their act together. There really is no excuse for a one third rejection rate!

Primer pocket reamer