For most of us who have had some involvement with firearms, either through the military, through living history or as a recreational shooter, cartridge cases are ubiquitous and we probably pay them little thought. The process behind manufacture though is rather involved and the act of turning a piece of raw brass into a functioning case is a complicated one. Last week I was lucky enough to pick up some partially completed cases of 7.62mm NATO standard ammunition that were made in 1976 and never finished:Brass is made into small cups, that are then put through hydraulic presses to draw them up into the basic shape of a casing, several draws are needed to make the brass thin enough to form the basic shape. After this, the cases are trimmed to length and the bases stamped into them, with primer pockets and headstamp detail. The cases on the left below have reached this stage:Depending on the manufacturer, the next stage is to ‘neck’ the cartridge down, and the case on the right has gone through this procedure. Although these cartridges appear rimmed, this is merely because they are unfinished. The rim would next be turned down and an extractor grove cut into the base of the cartridge. Here we see the two stages next to a completed round:This illustration shows all the steps of the manufacturing process:These cartridges have headstamps indicating they were made by Radway Green in 1976:Not only is the manufacture of cartridge cases a complicated procedure, but due to the tight tolerances of firearms it needs to be done with a high degree of precision, any cartridges that do not meet the required specifications are rejected as these examples presumably were.