Reloading .22 rimfire cartridges: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Why this blog?
  • Quick history
  • Today
  • The kit
  • Bullet mold
  • .22 rimfire pressure
  • The instructions
  • The priming compound
  • That’s all
  • Why you need this
  • What about the dent left by the firing pin?
  • Sizing the empty cartridge case
  • How to test?
  • Summary

I hope you have seen at least the first movie in the 3-part Karate Kid video series, because in this report you are going to be challenged by me. As I try to strike you with various karate blows, you will defend yourself from muscle memory gained while sanding the deck, waxing the cars and painting the fence! Hajime!

Why this blog?

Several months ago in a comment to a cartridge reloading report, reader Yogi asked what about reloading rimfire cartridges. As I have done for the 26 years I’ve been writing about airguns, I puffed up my chest and was about to bellow, “Rimfire cartridges cannot be reloaded.” However, in an uncharacteristic move, I went online, just to be sure. Lo and behold, not only can rimfire cartridges be reloaded, people have been doing so almost from the inception of the first .22-caliber rimfire cartridge by Smith & Wesson in 1856.

So why this series for airgunners? Because, you guys have learned so much from shooting airguns that you will see and understand this material better than most firearm shooters. Plus you’re going to see some parallels to airgunning as the series unfolds.

Quick history

I learned in my research that the Inuit hunters were avid .22 rimfire cartridge reloaders.  When I was a boy in the early 1950s, the Inuit hunters used a lot of .22 long cartridges. In fact my buddy Mac told me that the .22 long cartridge was partially kept alive to supply subsistence hunters like the Inuit. And they do reload their .22 cartridges. Of course they own centerfire rifles today, but the .22 rimfire always goes along on a trip. Countless polar bears have been taken with a shot behind the ear, not to mention seals, caribou and other wildlife.

During the Great Depression, rimfire reloading was quite popular. If you wanted to shoot, you reloaded. The airguns of the day weren’t as capable as they are today, which made the rimfire king of the field.

In a future report I will discuss how people reload rimfire cartridges without any of what you are about to see today, but I wanted you to know that this is a practice that’s more than a century old and it’s still flourishing today.

Today

Today I’m going to show you a .22 rimfire reloading kit that has all the tools and instructions for reloading rimfire cartridges. Most importantly, it has a bullet mold for two different weights of heeled .22 rimfire bullets. Heeled bullets are best for shooting in rimfire cartridges.

This tool set also comes in .22 Magnum. It’s different because the .22 Magnum cartridge uses a .224-inch bullet, while the .22 short, long and long rifle cartridges use a .223-inch bullet. As airgunners you understand better than most how important that thousandth of an inch can be!

I will also show you a 4-part powder set that gives you enough priming powder for about 2,000 cartridges. It costs $20, so you are buying four 500-round bricks of .22 ammo for less than the cost of one brick! Of course there is the bullet, which we will cast, so it’s free. There is also about one grain of gunpowder. So you get 7,000 cartridges from a one-pound can of gunpowder that costs another $25. That adds four-tenths of a cent to the cost of each cartridge.

Based on these numbers a brick of 500 reloaded .22 cartridges will cost you about $5.25. Do away with the priming powder and the cost for a brick is 25 cents. Do away with the gunpowder and the cartridges are free!

Of course the problem these days is — you can’t find bricks of .22 rimfire or any gunpowder in the United States because of the hoarders, but in this report we are talking about the way around the .22 rimfire cartridge problem through reloading. I won’t get into the manufacture of gunpowder, but understand that it is possible.

The kit

reloading tools blister pack
The kit of tools for reloading rimfire cartridges is very complete. Everything on the list on the right of the card in this set is in this blister pack.

reloading tools out
Here are the tools out of the blister pack.

Bullet mold

Sharpshooter, the company that sells the kit of tools, says their mold is the only one on the market for a heeled .22-caliber bullet. A heeled bullet has a smaller diameter at the base of the bullet, to fit inside the cartridge case. The part of the bullet outside the case is the diameter of the bore. A .22 rimfire chamber is cut so the bullet enters the rifling immediately upon leaving the cartridge case. There is no “jump” into the rifling the way there is in a revolver and even in many centerfire rifles. This design cooperates with the smaller heel at the bullet’s base, to allow the base to obturate and seal the bore. See what your airgunning knowledge has taught you? I guarantee you, not many firearms shooters other than reloaders and black powder shooters understand the importance of obturation.

.22 rimfire pressure

SAAMI specifies that the pressure of a .22 rimfire cartridge never goes above 25,000 psi, but they probably never come close to that. I say probably because there is no reloading data for the cartridge, since very few people ever do it. The cartridge manufacturers certainly aren’t talking!

Given the softness of the bullet I estimate a .22 long rifle cartridge reaches a pressure of around 12,000 psi, which is .38 Special territory. That’s enough to obturate the base of a soft lead heeled bullet.

The bullet mold that comes in the kit has two different size bullets. The larger one is a 38-grain round-nose solid for your powerful cartridges and the smaller one is a 25-grain pointed solid for your weaker rounds and your CB caps (cartridges made with priming compound alone).

reloading bullet mold
The 38-grain solid bullet is on the right. The 25-grain bullet is in the center and on the left is the crimping die that crimps the end of the case around the bullet. This design is quite clever and both bullets are heeled. 

I will have more to say more about the mold after I cast some bullets with it. I know that a .22-caliber bullet mold is hard to get up to casting temperature, so I’ll be looking at that. And the sprue plate on this mold has no positive stop, so aligning it with the mold cavities is an eyeball exercise. Also those metal handles look like they will get hot!

The instructions

The instructions that come with this kit are the most important part. Not only do they tell you how to use all the parts of the kit, they also tell you how to make priming compound out of commonly available items like toy caps and strike-anywhere matches. Additionally they tell you how to make your own gunpowder from things like matches that don’t strike anywhere.

reloading instructions
This instruction sheet unfolds again to be twice this size, with information and pictures on the back.

The priming compound

The same company that sells the tools also sells priming compound in 4 powders that you mix together. It should be obvious to everyone why there are four separate powders instead of just one. According to the instructions, one lot of powders makes enough priming compound for 2,000 cartridges.

reloading priming powders
You can purchase this bag of 4 powders that, when mixed together in the right proportions, makes priming compound. At the bottom of the bag is the powder scoop that’s used to measure the powders and many other things.

The powders are mixed in different proportions, using a small plastic powder measure that comes with both the kit of tools and with this batch of priming powders. It has a small measure on one end and a large measure on the other.

reloading priming powders
These four powders are mixed in differing proportions to make rimfire priming compound.

reloading powder instructions
The directions for mixing the powders and priming the shells.

That’s all

That’s all I’m going to say at this time about the kit of tools and the priming powders. I’ll have more for you in upcoming reports.

Why you need this

Okay, like BB you have squirreled away plenty of bricks of .22. Why is this report of interest to you? Well, what about making cartridges for that .41-caliber rimfire Remington derringer your grandfather left you? He left you a box with 32 cartridges inside and over the years you have fired ten of them. For reasons unbeknownst to you at the time you kept those empty cartridges, and now you have a way of reloading them again. A sealed box of 50 cartridges starts at $300 on Gun Broker, which provides a great incentive to learn!

reloading Remington derringer
Your grandfather’s .41-rimfire derringer is a good reason to reload rimfire.

Or you have a 9mm Flobert rifle that you want to shoot? It came with a box of 50 cartridges, but when they are gone, what will you do? Now you have an answer.

What about the dent left by the firing pin?

When a rimfire fires, the firing pin leaves a dent in the cartridge rim. What is to be done about that? Well, you can try to knock it out with a punch or even make a special tool to knock it out, but you risk weakening the case at that place if you do. It’s better to leave the dent in the cartridge and, when you load it, position it so the firing pin won’t strike in that place. That means reloaded rimfire cartridges are best used in bolt-action rifles or most any single-shot rifle. By no coincidence, the shooters who reload rimfire cartridges are the same sort who own single-shot rifles. But there is one more concern.

Sizing the empty cartridge case

When a cartridge is fired, it expands to fit the chamber precisely. It may be too large to fit into another rifle. There is a .22 rimfire cartridge case resizing die available, but why go to that expense and bother? Just use the same rifle and you’ll never need to worry.

What if you don’t have any .22 cartridges to shoot, so you can’t generate any empty cases? Well, all you have to do is use your rifle’s chamber to select or reject all the cases you pick up on the ground at the range.

How to test?

My plan so far is to cast some bullets then reload some cartridges and show you how all of that is done. Then I will shoot them. I plan to use my Remington model 33 single shot bolt action rifle for this. Before I do that, though, I will shoot some 25-yard groups in that same rifle with a cartridge I know to be accurate. That gives me a baseline for comparison, plus those will be the cases I reload.

I have some thoughts for tests after that, such as how accurate can I make a reloaded .22 long rifle cartridge, and so on. But I need to get this far first.

I’m not looking for gold dollar groups from this rifle — just some groups to compare my tailor-mades to store-boughten ammo.

Summary

We are looking at something pretty special today. This reloading kit is something not too many shooters know about. When we finish this series we should all know a lot more about our sport. Thanks, Yogi!

85 thoughts on “Reloading .22 rimfire cartridges: Part 1


  1. BB
    I bookmarked the link to this kit you used and read a article about it the other day.

    I’m seriously thinking about giving it a try. I have been saving my .22 cases for some time along with lead from my pellets and bullets. Maybe a good project when I retire in a few more years.

    And I don’t know if this will work. But after mixing up the primer into a liquid like the instructions say and placing it in the cartridge to dry. I was going to take and chuck the case in my drill and spin the cartridge to help disperse the primer then set it down to dry. And of course you would have to keep the case pointed straight down if you used a hand drill.

    I’m going to order the kit and I may try to load some just to see how it works. Pretty cool project. I think anyway.



      • BB
        Either way should still be able to spin the case in a drill chuck. Just wonder what rpm would be needed.

        And in that article I read the guy is talking about using the powder from caps. As in cap gun caps if someone didn’t want to buy the primer kit.


        • GF1,

          Assuming that it would be possible, I would use a drill press. It would be like a loading station,.. like when reloading. A slight hand tight would be enough,.. no chuck key.

          I also would question getting the right amount and mix ratio into each shell. The solvents mentioned evaporate very quickly. I also get the impression that it turns into a paste,.. so maybe too thick to spin out with centrifugal force.

          I imagine that if you dig into the topic on the net,… you will see where people are doing it (OR) NOT doing it for one reason or another. It might require over diluting/thinning and then using something like a dropper or pipette to get the right amount in. (like x drops per case or x ml)

          I kind of get the impression that you want things to be precise and doing a wet method introduces a whole new set of variables. So,…?

          Chris


          • Chris
            The guy doing the report I read is doing it like in a survival type situation. So he is trying to use things you can find around the house sort of. And although he admitted he cheated melting down the lead with a torch instead of a wood fire. And he said to use a quick evaporating liquid for the primer like acetone or Vodka. I laughed about that. Everybody has some Vodka at home right. 😉

            But yes I’m going to look more into it to see what I can find out before I try anything with the reloading.

            But the mixing cup and dropper and other things come in the kit. I’m going to make the quiet low velocity rounds like the CCI 40 grain 710fps long rifles. So yes learning how much powder to put in the case I’m thinking will be a trail and error kind of thing to get the velocity where I want it.

            And I got I bet enough cases and lead to easily make over 2000 rounds right now. So I will be able to do some experimenting with powder load size for the velocity. It will be a fun project I’m thinking.



  2. I may get the kit to reload 22lr it sounds like a fun project.

    I was finally able to put my new barrel and scope on my target Ruger 10/22. I thought I had ruined my original barrel by shooting bullets that I dumped in a tub and had fine sand and silt that would blow in while shooting. I am not sure now the barrel is bad. Both of the screws that tighten the wedge that holds the barrel tight were finger tight when I went to remove the barrel. Lesson learned check the screws, how many times have I heard that. It will be spring before I get to test the original barrel as the weather has now set in with quite a bit of snow.

    I was able to get some shooting in at our cabin last week in some decent weather, cool and calm. So with the new barrel and scope I was able to get some good subgroups but the shots were walking around on the paper. I am pretty sure I had the scope adjusted too far so the turrets were loose. I had shimmed the scope but did not look close enough to see that the rings were not sitting flat on the base. I was able to put a different set of rings on the scope and now it looks like it sits flat and in alignment with the barrel. I will have to wait for spring to see if the new rings are going to work.

    It may be overkill for a 10/22 but this gun has give me so much fun over the years I think it deserves it. Here is a picture. The gun has a Falcon scope and a Green Mountain barrel on it. The Original barrel is in the foreground.

    Don


  3. BB,

    Looking forwards to more. My, my,… it sure does seem like a “fiddly” process with all the powders, mixing, small tools, small cases and manually pressing the powder mix to the rim, etc.. Like you said though,… when you have to, you have to.

    I would be interested in you doing somewhat of time study,.. if you think that is possible. At some point in my life,.. I realized that it was easier to work some over time > get extra money > pay someone else to do work that I preferred not to do (like car repair, for example). A time study might also serve to drive home the point of buying and hording (and having the $ ready to do so) when then opportunity presents itself.

    Chris


    • Chris,

      Material cost wise, this is a great idea. Time cost wise, this is very expensive. This is something you learn how to do and if you need to do it, you do it or you are doing it for entertainment, knowledge and/or experience.



        • Chris,

          Yeah, but all the money in the world can’t buy what’s not for sale. Twenty-two ammo is still available from the hoarders for a price, but what happens when that dries up?

          What about .41 rimfire or .38 rimfire? Who’s got those?

          BB


          • BB,

            No arguments there. Still, a time study (WAG) would be interesting.

            So for reference,… what (were) .22 longs going for a year ago and what are they going for now?

            Chris






                  • BB,

                    No, they were longs. I was quite surprised to see them as I had not seen such in some time. At one time it was almost impossible to find “standard velocity” long rifles.


                    • RR,

                      Wow! The last longs I saw were in a vintage box.

                      And what about those guys who own a rifle or pistol chambered for .22 WRF? That’s not the magnum, but an obsolete .22 cartridge like a long rifle and it has a 45-grain lead bullet that’s NOT heeled!

                      BB



                    • I saw some in the new Sportsman Warehouse in Murfreesboro but now it’s pretty much all gone. Scary, it’s like people are preparing for a war.


                  • B.B.,

                    CB Long would be a basis for a measure of propellant and a bullet if you haven’t collected “spent” .22LR cases.
                    Tom don’t forget to tell folks new to reloading that you need to clean/tumble before sizing and trimming. It does make me wonder if you really need to clean before reloading in a survival situation? How you would go about it also needs to be discussed. Lots to experiment with to get from buying bricks of .22LR to reloading!
                    Another great Blog topic would be traps & snares since they are great for survival and the .22LR Coup de Grace shot doesn’t need to be competition accurate!

                    shootski


            • Chris,

              Uh, yeah.

              Time study wise, It will vary concerning which steps you count, the expediency with which you are loading, etc.

              My father and I would spend two to four days reloading 100 centerfire cartridges. Removing spent primers and resizing the neck and then tumbling usually took a day or more. Then we inspected each casing for cracks, splits or bulging. We would carefully measure, trim and measure each casing, seat each primer and visually inspect. We weighed each load. Then we would seat each projectile to the same depth.

              Untold man hours.


              • RR,

                Uh,.. well,………….. I had to ask! 😉 Of course it would make sense that you would add more.

                I see the kit is for .22 long,.. so I am guessing that there is kits for shorts too, and other larger calibers (each specific). It would seem the same kit could be used and change only the amounts (like 2 scoops versus 1 scoop, etc.).

                Chris


                • Chris
                  Didn’t BB give a link to the website that has the kit?

                  Check it out and see. I think it’s only long rifle though. And if it was longs or shorts too it would just be a matter of reducing the gun powder load. The amount of primer would still be the same.




                • Mildot 52,

                  We were hunting groundhogs with a Remington 700 Varmint Special chambered in .25-06 that had a glass bedded action and free floated barrel. If you hit a groundhog with it anywhere but in the head, you had nothing left to eat. This rifle with these loads would put five shots in a one inch group at 300 yards, where it was zeroed. We could hit a groundhog in the head at well over 500 yards.

                  Maybe it was not necessary, but it worked.


                  • well, I shot a 3 inch group at ten miles offhand with a 6.5 Swedemoor lol.
                    powder and bullets were cheap then. With a 223 and 80 gr bullets at over 2900 fps it would shoot flatter then the 25-06 which did not have good BC bullets. But the 80 bullets were not around then with fast twist barrels


              • RR,

                “My father and I would spend two to four days reloading”

                …Great to read that, don’t mind if I am envious.

                My father was not into shooting, fishing and outdoor stuff like that at all… he was always too busy.

                Luckily, my father-in-law is an outdoors man and we have spend many a day hunting and fishing. When I say “Dad” I am talkin about him. 🙂

                Cheers!
                Hank


          • BB
            Ain’t that the truth. How can you buy something and it’s not there.

            I believe this rimfire series is a very important report.

            I have to think. Why hasn’t this been a subject on the internet before. But now days I know why.

            This will be a much searched subject for some time I believe.




  4. BB,
    You are just a fun guy. You come up with more mischief that anyone I know. I look forward to reading more of this project.

    Have fun, and don’t blow you hand off.

    David Enoch



  5. You know what my question would be about this subject.

    How many times could a person reload a .22 rimfire case? Would it start stretching and how many times could the firing pin hit around a reloaded case and possibly not be effective in igniting the gun powder load. Like say the case may only be good for 2 or 3 reloads because of those situations.


    • GF1,

      I wonder about that as well. I think 3 or 4, depending on the firing pin dent. There is so much to do with this series I can see it running into double digits!

      Like how accurate are the kit-made cartridges, versus the ones primed with matches and with matches as gunpowder?

      BB


  6. Thanks BB!

    This is great stuff!

    Now that I am totally into airguns I have way more .22 rimfire ammo than I will ever need so reloading rimfires is not on the agenda – still I find this subject very interesting and I am looking forward to the rest of the series!

    Hank



    • Hank,

      There you go! (per GF1) $2 per shell! Strike while the irons hot,.. as they say. It could fund your next/on-going PCP project. You won’t even have to run anything past the CFO. 😉

      Chris


      • Chris,

        It is actually the CFO who suggests most of my airgun related purchases – she will often surprise me with a sleeve of pellets 🙂

        After hearing about shortages in the States, I stocked up on shotgun, centerfire and rimfire ammo last summer in case it would become unavailable. Still have a couple of powder-burners left, don’t shoot them much but it is always wise to have enough ammunition around.

        Hank


  7. BB

    This is uncharted territory for me. Knew it was not impossible to reload rimfire just not practical. You have overcome that perception with this report. I actually have an old hand me down .41 rimfire but too many parts are missing. I think this series will be fun for many of us. Just do it your way letting your considerable imagination run wild but safely.

    I’m thinking most of us are hoarders (imoji)!

    Deck


    • Decksniper,

      Get Thee and your .41 caliber rimfire to a 1st class metalsmithing Gunsmith with outstanding fabrication skills!

      Practical…what an interesting choice of WORD!

      Hoarding is not a good SURVIVAL skill! Being able to make do with what is at hand makes for long-term successful SURVIVAL.

      SEAR School graduate.

      shootski



      • Shootski

        Agree in the purest form of survival. My press, dies and brass for every caliber plus primers and powders assure my collection will never go obsolete for my future generations.

        Stay safe and just enjoy the snow!

        Deck


        • Decksniper,

          I hope your Kin will always appreciate what you have done for them.

          Have the backcountry light skis waxed and polished and will head out under cover of darkness if Sleet and Freezing Rain will just stop soon enough! I’m going to break our lame Governor’s curfew tonight and ski in the dark on Skyline Drive in the over 3,000′ section!

          shootski


          • Shootski

            Just downhill for me even at my age. One son in San Diego of all unlikely places is big on cross country skiing mostly in Utah, Montana and Idaho.

            Enjoy the curfew disobedience.

            Deck



            • BobF,

              Thanks for the local update. I plan to go up Hawksbill Mountain on my skis. I have a friends near there and am running 4 REAL Snow tires with Swiss chain system (never used) as a backup to get to the base. I carry a strobe, LASER Flare, PRB, a VHF Radio, cell phone and a Bivy Sack.

              But I will check conditions before i hit the road along about about midnight.

              shootski


              • Shootski,

                Lucky you! Over at my cabin which is way west of Staunton, the locals still ask what is a cell phone? It all depends on which side of the mountain you’re on. Can you see the lights in Culpepper from the summit? Would be a pretty sight on a night like tonight!

                BobF


                • BobF,

                  I believe Old Rag might block that view line toward Culpeper. Hawksbill does have nearly a 270° clear view but ENE is blocked. I doubt much of the route up from the East will have much cell coverage. It is a total 10 -12 mile trip with just under 2,000′ of vertical elevation gain. It will be quiet and DARK.
                  The latest trail weather update doesn’t sound great at the moment; to much rain and freezing rain and not enough SNOW on the backside of the storm.

                  2130 Forecast for 6 miles NW of Syria is: Snow showers, mainly before midnight. Low around 26. Northwest wind 11 to 17 mph, with gusts as high as 28 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. Total nighttime snow accumulation of 1 to 3 inches possible.

                  With a GOOGLE predicted 1.5+ hour drive it is not be worth the risk tonight and a drive home with a refreeze potentially, Bummer! But then it Isn’t even Winter yet!

                  shootski


                  • Shootski,

                    Look at the bright side, we finally got a measurable amount of snow. Remember last winter————-what winter? Makes me wish I was 40 yrs younger and living in the Adirondacs again! Snow I can deal with, ice is a whole different ball game,

                    My advice to you is to retreat to the basement next to the pellet stove. Pick up the Crosman 137 and exercise your trigger finger 20 or 30 times. It always brings my blood pressure back down into the acceptable zone. Got to go, I feel a blood pressure reduction session coming my way!

                    Have a good one!

                    BobF


  8. BB, This is a fascinating one. Good eye on the mold handles, also I am curious about the process. .22 ammo can be very expensive, and if it is not accurate, maybe the bear gets you! But I imagine all Inuits know this.
    My Marlin will not cycle well with standard velocity ammo, and doesn’t seem to group well with high velocity ammo.
    What makes match grade ammo? We shall see! Kewell.
    Rob




  9. Here are some others, left to right ls .25 caliber?, .22 mag and an assortment of .22 caliber stud driver loads.

    I guess I shot all of my 22WRF ammo. It is more accurate than the .22 mag in my revolver.



      • FawltyManuel,

        I hope it does not get that bad. I probably tried that as a kid. I did pull a few bullets from .22 shells to try in my pellet gun. No accuracy though.

        I have plenty of ammo if I conserve it a little.

        Don




  10. B.B.

    Dedicated bakers recommend weighting ingredients, not using a measure.
    Wouldn’t the same apply here? The thought of using the little spoon makes me think that could be a HUGE variable.

    -Y


  11. One concern comes to mind. What about a possible squib load? Would hate to stick a bullet in the barrel and then shoot again. Might not be enough pressure to damage gun or injure shooter but who knows? With a light load you might not hear a difference, especially with ear protection. I guess you could rod the barrel after each shot, what a pain. You know someone will load up a semi-auto and do rapid fire. BB, you might want to test for this possibility.

    As a reloader of shotgun, and centerfire ammo I’m intrigued with loading these little rimfires.


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