Reloading .22 rimfire cartridges: Part 4
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- Mix and apply the priming compound
- What do you need?
- Priming powders
- Mix the powders
- Think small
- Be safe!
- Prime the cases
- The purpose of the acetone
- How many cartridges?
- What I did
Okay guys — today is THE DAY! This is the day when all the commenting on whether or not reloading rimfire cartridges is worth it, whether it’s possible, whether it is safe and whether I can actually do it ends. No more talk. Time to do! As Jedi Master Yoda taught us, there is no try.
Mix and apply the priming compound
Today I will mix a batch of priming powder and put it into the rims of the .22 long rifle cartridges that I cleaned in Part 2. I added Part 3, Bore size versus performance, because it bears directly on what I’m doing, though it will take me some time to make the case for that.
What do you need?
I showed you both the tools for reloading the cartridge cases and the priming powders in Part 1 of this report. Now I’m going to mix those 4 powders and prime my cases. I’ll also show you some other things that now come into play
Once the priming powder is dumped into each case, a drop of either acetone or rubbing alcohol is dropped in on top of it. That softens the mixture and allows you to pack it into the rim of the case manually. I used acetone, because it evaporates faster. In the kit of reloading tools there is a small glass bottle with a glass eye dropper to use with the acetone. My first job was to fill that bottle.
Put the acetone into the glass bottle to use as you prime the cases.
The PrimeAll kit of priming powders comes with four bags of different powders. They are labeled, though you aren’t told what they are. There are the components for approximately 2,000 cartridges in this 20-dollar batch of powders.
The four powders that make up the priming compound.
Mix the powders
In both the kit of reloading tools and also the PrimaAll powders there is a powder measure with two different scoops. One side is large and marked L for large and the other side is S for small.
The instructions for mixing the powders say to mix them in a plastic container and to avoid metal. But in the reloading tools kit the instructions say you can also use a glass container to mix the powders. I found a shot glass perfect for the job!
There is my shot glass for mixing the powders, plus the white powder scoop at the lower right. The metal rod above the powder scoop is the rim packing tool. You already saw it when I cleaned the case rims in Part 2, but today I’ll use the smaller end to pack priming mixture into the rims.
The powder measure is wee-teeny, which is the scientific term for itty-bitty. It is SMALL! You scoop one full large scoop of the blackish powder in bag L and two large scoops from bag L2. Then scoop one small scoop from bag s and one scoop from bag S. All the scoops go into the shot glass. When I say fill the scoops I mean level with their tops.
The powder in Bag L2 has clumps in it and you must knead it to get them out before you scoop that powder out. There will still be small clumps after that powder is put into the shot glass, and you’ll deal with them as you mix the powders.
The first large scoop of powder L has been dropped into the shot glass.
Now, pardon me for not showing you each powder as it was dropped into the shot glass. I was concentrating on doing everything right at the time, because these powders become much more sensitive when they are mixed. But I followed the instructions exactly as I described above — one full large scoop of powder L, two full large scoops of powder L2, and one full small scoop each of powders s and S. This is where I noticed the small clumps of powder L2.
I used the powder scoop as the mixing stick. You are mixing powders that explode when crushed. If you watch the short film from SharpShooter about mixing the powders, he takes a very small scoop of mixed powder and whacks it with a hammer to show what happens.
The object of mixing the powder is to get a uniform gray powder. It will have white specs in it. I held the mouth of the shot glass pointed away from my face as I mixed so if the powder should detonate, the blast would be away from my face. My glasses are a special safety glass that I paid extra for, and if yours aren’t, then wear either shop or shooting safety glasses while doing this.
Because the shot glass is clear I could see the powders as I mixed them and carefully crushed the small clumps of L2 powder. Finally, after several minutes of mixing I got a reasonably uniform gray powder mixture.
Here the four powders are almost completely mixed. There are still a couple small clumps, like the one the arrow points to, in the mix, but I will grind them out CAREFULLY as I finish. This is not a job for a mortar and pestle!
Prime the cases
Once the priming powder is ready it’s time to prime the cases. For that you need the small scoop and a tiny white funnel that fits inside a .22 long rifle case.
Now we have all the tools we need to prime the cases. There is the powder funnel, the acetone, the powder packer tool, the powder scoop and of course the cases.
The funnel is in the cartridge case and ready for the priming powder to be dumped in.
When the small scoop is a third filled with priming powder, it is dumped into the funnel.
The purpose of the acetone
The acetone makes the priming compound easier to spread and pack into the rim. It also activates the hardener in the priming powder mixture. The directions say to wait 5 minutes after priming each case but the film says that’s only for humid places. Where I am in Texas it is dry and the priming powder dried almost instantly, so there was no waiting. It took me about a minute to pour in the powder, drop one drop of acetone and use the packing tool to pack the powder into the rim. We will have to wait until I can shoot them to know whether I did it right.
A drop of acetone liquifies then immediately hardens the priming compound.
I scraped these hardened priming compound chunks from the inside wall of the first case. That’s the small powder scoop above, for scale. This is how I know that the acetone dries the priming compound almost immediately. After taking this picture I carefully put this compound back into the first case, where it will be exploded when that cartridge fires.
How many cartridges?
How many cartridges can be primed from one mixture of priming powder? I got 18 cases primed this first time around. I may have used too much priming powder in some of the first cases, but right now I don’t know that for sure.
I wouldn’t mix a second batch of priming powder before the first batch was used up. Remember, this is an explosive that goes off from percussion!
I also wouldn’t try to mix a partial batch. Those scoops are too small to allow for guesstimation beyond what I’ve already discussed.
Is it safe to store the mixed priming powder? I wouldn’t do it. The separate powders are the safest way to store this stuff. Plan your work from that. I have given you the count of cases that the first batch filled for me. If you want more, do the whole thing over again.
What I did
Like I said, I loaded 18 cases with the first batch of priming compound. But that wasn’t enough for my first test, so I mixed a second batch and loaded 10 more. In these I put about twice the priming compound, because I wanted to use it all up in the 30 empty cartridges I had prepared. I got a total of 28 — 18 from the first batch and 10 from the second. I didn’t want to throw any priming compound away!
But I will load the second batch of cases separately and chronograph them separately. I will also watch the reliability rate (cartridges that fire on the first strike, etc.). This will tell me a little more about how this all works. I may even load a couple cartridges with no powder and just a 25-grain bullet, in an attempt to make a CB cap. Ain’t this fun?
This was an interesting day. Of course I haven’t completely loaded the cartridges. I have to let the priming compound dry before I load the cartridges. Complete loading happens next time. Then we test. I am excited!
There are probably going to a great many tests as I learn this process and refine it. And remember, a .41 rimfire short and a .32 rimfire short cartridge are also coming. Oh, happy days!