Reloading firearm cartridges: Part 4
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- Design an Airgun
- Godfather’s Gold Gun giveaway
- Reload a cartridge
- Types of cartridges
- Rimmed and rimless cartridges
- Resize and deprime
- Bell the case mouth
- Prime each case
- Put powder in the case
- Powder measure
- Insert the bullet
Design an Airgun
Just a reminder — the Design an Airgun contest ends on this Friday, October 16. The winner will be the niftiest design that most people can build. The winner will receive the American Zimmerstutzen as a prize. I have to limit the contest to residents of the United States because of international shipping laws but readers from other countries are welcome to show us their designs.
The winner of the Design an Airgun contest will win the American Zimmerstutzen.
Godfather’s Gold Gun giveaway
Don’t forget that some lucky U.S. reader this month will also be drawn to receive the Godfather’s Gold Gun — an Ataman AP16 pistol designed by B.B. Pelletier. So, there is a lot going on this month!
Reload a cartridge
Today we are continuing our tutorial on reloading a cartridge. We will actually put a cartridge together in this report.
Types of cartridges
There are several different types of cartridges. Some have bases that are rimmed. Those rims are what the reloading equipment holds onto while the case is run through all the reloading steps. Revolver cartridges like the .38 Special and rifle cartridges like the 30-30 are rimmed.
Cartridges that work in semiautomatic actions have cases that are rimless. Those would be like the 9 X 19 mm Luger pistol cartridge and the 5.56 mm rifle cartridge.
Rimmed and rimless cartridges
Each type of cartridge, rimmed and rimless, is held by the reloading press at its base. This requires some kind of shellholder for most reloading presses, though the Forester press has an automatic shellholder that opens to grab any cartridge base.
Rimmed .30-30 and .38 Special cases on the left — rimless 5.56 mm and 9X19 mm on the right.
Resize and deprime
The first step is to resize the cartridge case and remove the primer from its pocket. Resizing makes the case a standard size to fit the chambers of all guns. Today I will take it one step further and show you what can be done with a sizing die. Sometimes, one caliber case can be turned into another!
I was aware that the .38-55 Winchester (or Ballard, as it was called when it was first introduced in 1884) is the case that the .30-30 Winchester is based on. To turn one into the other all you have to do is resize the .38-55 case in a .30-30 sizing die! I no longer have a .38-55 rifle, but I do have a .30-30, so I took the few .38-55 cases I had laying around and turned them into .30-30 cases.
A .38-55 case sits in the press, ready to go into the sizing die.
After running it into the .30-30 sizing die and back out, this .38-55 case has been turned into a .30-30 case. Only the headstamp gives away what it used to be.
After this is done, the primer pocket must be cleaned, so the new primer can be inserted.
This .38-55 has been resized into a .30-30 case, but its primer pocket still needs to be cleaned.
Once all the cases are sized and de-primed, I dump them into the tumbler that I showed in Part 1 and tumble them for about 12 hours. I do it overnight, so no time is wasted.
This is how they come out of the tumbler. Yes, this is a different case, because I already loaded the other one.
Bell the case mouth
At this time the mouth of the case is expanded or “belled” so it doesn’t shave off part of the bullet when it’s inserted and pushed home. This is especially important when loading lead bullets, as I usually do. These days it’s hard to find jacketed bullets to buy, so my bullet casting has kept me and three other reloaders shooting. There is usually a special loading die to expand the case mouth, but when there isn’t, I use a .50-caliber bullet from a .50 BMG round to do it.
My .30-30 die set doesn’t have a die to bell the case mouth, so I use this .50-caliber bullet.
Prime each case
Now it’s time to put a fresh primer in each case. This can be done either with the reloading press or with a separate priming tool, like I showed in Part 2. Make sure the primer is flush with the bottom of the case or slightly below.
A fresh primer has been inserted. As long as the primer pocket is clean the primer will fit correctly. The notch on the rim of this case was for aligning each cast bullet (that had been loaded into the case) in the same orientation, to help with accuracy. That was for the Ballard.
Put powder in the case
There are many different kinds of smokeless gunpowder. Some burn very fast and others burn very slow. Fast-burning powders are usually for short-barreled firearms like handguns. Slower-burning powders are for rifles and some magnum loads in handgun cartridges. The reloading manual tells you what the safe loads are for each powder and bullet weight/type (lead or jacketed). I follow those recipes scrupulously. Safety is always the first concern for a reloader!
To measure the powder you put into the case a powder measure can be used. Since different powders come in different-sized granules and coarseness, you use different measures for different powders. It’s not one measure per type of powder. More like one measure for flake and ball powders and another one for granulated (like small grains of rice) powders. However, a few, like the RCBS Uniflow, work well with all powders.
The RCBS Uniflow powder measure I use works well with all powders.
Once they are adjusted, powder measures will throw charges that are within 0.2 grains of each other — at least the ones I use will with the types of powders I use. That’s close enough for general shooting and hunting ammo. But for shooting small groups, it’s best to weigh each powder charge by hand. You set your measure to throw a charge that’s a few tenths light and then use a trickle charger to increase it to exactly the rght amount. Naturally every charge is weighed on a powder scale.
Lee also makes a set of special dippers that measure a load of powder reasonsbly well. With some practice and care you can usually stay within 0.3 grains of the desired charge.
Insert the bullet
The last step is to insert the bullet and ram it home with the press. As the press’s ram gets to the end of its stroke, the die is set to crimp the case mouth into the bullet. At least that is what I have my dies set to do. This step does not take force, but rather a feel for things. It’s easy to use too much pressure on the press handle. Everyone who reloads has a pile of cartridges where something went wrong. You try to disassemble as many of your mistakes as you can to save the components, but some cannot be saved.
It took longer for you to read this report than it took me to do everything needed to turn the empty cartridge case on the left into a fresh new loaded round. Since I made the bullet, this .30-30 cartridge cost me a little more than a nickel!
Reloading is a good way to save a little money, and a great way to make better ammunition. And, when supplies are short, such as they are these days, it is the only way to continue shooting.
I went through all the steps today pretty fast. Let me know what you need to have explained better.
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