Like hunting, reloading has shown me that the real work starts as soon as the shot breaks. Before a spent case can be reloaded, it must be cleaned, resized, and made ready to receive primer, powder, and projectile. As the name implies, the RCBS Case Prep Center certainly helps with some of that.
Expect another piece on my process for brass prep, as it’s not germane to this particular review, but once the cases have shed their spent primer, been resized to spec, trimmed to length, and given a thorough cleaning in my stainless steel media tumbler, they’re almost ready for the three P’s – primer, powder, and projectile. But first, any primer crimping must be removed and the case mouth must be chamfered and then deburred.
Thanks to five electrically driven, 8-32 female threaded stations, you can perform all of these tasks and any others you might like utilizing any of the included accessories. In the box, you’ll find the unit itself which is sturdy, fairly heavy, and sports a large gauge, grounded power cord. In the various packs and packets, you’ll find steel primer pocket brushes in both small and large sizes along with .30 and .22 caliber nylon brushes. Rounding out the group is a matched pair of heads for chamfering and deburring. In a lone packet is some powder marked as dry lube for case necks.
As I use a stainless steel pin tumbler to clean my brass, the inside of my case necks and my primer pockets are always shiny, clean, and free of carbon buildup. Should you not have access to such a wonderful tool, you can certainly give the primer pocket brushes a shot. I found them to be a bit harsh for my use as they quickly scored the primer pockets of the brass I tested them on. Further perplexing to me was that neither size seemed to fit my primer pockets. They freely rattled around inside the pocket, further damaging the surface. Into the little storage cubby they went, never to make an appearance again.
Likewise, the case neck brushes rarely saw use other than the occasional application of the aforementioned dry neck lube. I can’t seem to notice much of a difference between a lubed and non lubed neck, but the process is quick and doesn’t seem to have any negative effects, and hey, when is more lubrication bad?
What does see quite a bit of use, and is the reason I even picked up this little green monster, is the set of chamfering and deburring tools. I’ve tried any number of solutions to the problem of getting consistent chamfers on my case necks, and this seems to be the ticket. Simply hold the case down on the chamfering tool for a few seconds and then the deburring tool (above) for a few more to knock the edges off. At least in theory, that’s how it should work.
In practice, several seconds turned to a dozen or so as the chamfering tool’s weak steel started to wear down several hundred cases in. At some point, it stopped doing much more than burnishing the case mouth a touch and making the electric motor work a bit harder. $35 on Amazon and two days later, I had the much stouter model you see on the left in the picture above. Several hundred cases later, it’s still going strong with no signs of slowing down.
RCBS sells several additional accessories for the Case Prep Center, and one that can’t be overlooked is the set of military crimp removers. I purchased the small rifle and large rifle versions on Amazon as a matched set for less than $33 and they’ve helped me make use of quite a bit of scavenged Federal Gold Medal .223 and Gorilla loaded Federal .308 brass that I would have otherwise thrown out. If you don’t find yourself using military crimped brass, don’t bother. But if you do, these are handy little bits made of high quality steel that seem to do a good job of cleaning up the crimp so you can reprime spent brass.
After another $60 or so in upgraded cutting heads, my bench top setup looks like the one above. My two crimped primer cutters are on the back row along with the .30 caliber brush, while the upgraded chamfering bit is on the right and the deburring head is on the left. I set my deprimed, resized, and trimmed brass in a bucket to the right of the machine and run each piece through the necessary steps, finishing with a final case neck brushing before it goes into the tumbler on my left for one last pass.
Specifications: RCBS Trim Mate Case Prep Center
- Material: Plastic housing, electric motor
- Large and Small primer pocket brushes
- Chamfering head
- Deburring head
- Small and Medium case neck brushes
- Packet of dry neck lube
- Price: $109.99
- Street Price: ~$100
Ratings (out of five stars):
Fit, Finish, Build Quality * * *
After a few dozen hours of run time, all is well and the little green box continues to hum along quietly. The included chamfering head is cheap and quickly wears down to a state of laughable ineffectiveness.
Customize This * * * * *
With five 8-32 receptacles, you can mix and match to your heart’s delight. I ended up purchasing the crimp removers as an additional accessory and if your scavenged brass suffers a similar crimp, you should too.
Overall Rating * * *
At roughly $100, the Case Prep Center isn’t a cheap item to keep on the bench, and if it had the upgraded cutter from the factory, this would have easily earned five stars. Unfortunately, you have to spend 35% of the purchase price to get a chamfering tool that won’t wear down after a few hundred rounds. I don’t begrudge RCBS for not including the crimp removers as that’s a bit of a specialized use case, and likely won’t hold value for a majority of reloaders. If it were mine to control, I’d delete the primer brushes as they’re functionally worthless, and upgrade the chamfering tool to the nicer model. I’d happily pay a few bucks more for a tool that was ready to go right out of the box.